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Global Trade: Maximizing FTAs for Success



  Mar 13, 2024

India's FTA Surge: Boosting Global Trade with Strategic Agreements



India’s Strategic Expansion through Free Trade Agreements: A Comprehensive Overview

In a significant boost to its global trade and economic ties, India has marked a substantial increase in its international trade agreements portfolio. Since 2014, the nation has inked 14 free trade agreements (FTAs) and six preferential trade agreements (PTAs), including a noteworthy pact with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. This strategic move is aimed at bolstering exports, ensuring wider market access for Indian goods and services, and enhancing economic cooperation with numerous countries worldwide.

Understanding Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Free Trade Agreements represent a pivotal shift in international economic policy, allowing signatory countries to either eliminate or significantly reduce customs duties on a broad array of goods. Beyond tariff reductions, these agreements focus on dismantling non-trade barriers, facilitating ease of investment, and fostering an environment conducive to bilateral service exports. Currently, more than 350 FTAs are in force globally, with India being a proactive participant in this dynamic trade landscape.

Varied Spectrum of Trade Pacts

India’s approach to FTAs is nuanced, incorporating various forms of economic cooperation agreements, including:
Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) or Early Harvest Scheme (India-Thailand)
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA, e.g., India-Singapore)
Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA, e.g., India-Korea)
Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA, e.g., India-EU)

These agreements, each with its specific focus and breadth, underline India’s commitment to a holistic integration into the global economy. They encompass a wide range of sectors from goods and services to investments and intellectual property rights, aiming to create a comprehensive economic partnership.

Strategic Benefits of FTAs

The strategic rationale behind negotiating FTAs includes securing zero-duty entry for Indian products in partner markets, creating a level playing field against competitors, attracting foreign investments, and accessing essential raw materials. Such agreements not only aim to diversify and expand export markets but also to stimulate domestic manufacturing and contribute to long-term consumer welfare and efficiency.

India’s Global Trade Partners

To date, India has established FTAs with countries and regions across the spectrum, including ASEAN, Japan, Korea, Australia, UAE, and Mauritius, among others. The negotiation table remains active with ongoing discussions with the UK, EU, Oman, Peru, and Israel, reflecting India’s ambitious agenda to further expand its trade network.


Zero Duty and WTO Compliance

Zero duty under FTAs pertains to the elimination of basic customs duties, albeit with certain domestic taxes like IGST and special welfare cess still applicable. Each FTA also outlines exclusion lists to protect sensitive sectors from the full impact of trade liberalization. These lists, which vary by agreement, often include agriculture and automotive products.

Looking Forward

The ongoing negotiations and reviews of existing FTAs, such as those between India and Korea, highlight the dynamic nature of international trade relations and the commitment to addressing and resolving key issues. As FTAs increasingly define global trade norms, India’s strategic negotiations position it as a central player in the evolving landscape of international trade and economics.

This expansive approach to FTAs demonstrates India’s strategic intent to leverage its growing market and economic potential, not just for immediate trade benefits but for long-term economic integration and growth on the global stage.


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