Tag Archives: india

BRICS Summit 2016: Five Key Trade Takeaways

Alicia Nicholls

The BRICS grouping, comprising of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, held its 8th Summit in Goa, India under the theme “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions” October, 15-16, 2016. India currently holds the chairmanship of the five-nation grouping.

Here are the main trade takeaways from the Summit:

  1. Support for the WTO-based Multilateral Trading System

The BRICS leaders have reiterated their support for the rules-based multilateral trading system and the World Trade Organisation’s centrality. Leaders noted the increased spaghetti bowl of bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements and advocated that these agreements should be complementary to the multilateral trading system. According to the Goa Declaration, BRICS leaders also encouraged parties to ” align their work in consolidating the multilateral trading system under the WTO in accordance with the principles of transparency, inclusiveness, and compatibility with the WTO rules.”

2. Continued support of Doha Development Agenda

Contrary to the G20 Statement where the Doha Development Agenda was essentially scrubbed from the trade vocabulary, BRICS leaders reiterated their support for advancing negotiations in the DDA, reflecting the sharply divided opinion on the future of Doha  which was demonstrated in the Nairobi Ministerial Statement. They also emphasised the importance of implementing the decisions taken at the Bali and Nairobi Ministerial Conferences and urged all WTO members to work together to ensure a strong development oriented outcome for MC11 and beyond.

3. Promoting BRICS Economic Cooperation

The BRICS leaders praised progress made so far on the implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership and emphasised the importance of the BRICS Roadmap for Trade, Economic and Investment Cooperation until 2020.

4. Improving intra-BRICS Customs Cooperation

The BRICS leaders commended the establishment of the Customs Cooperation Committee of BRICS and the signing of the Regulations on Customs Cooperation Committee of the BRICS in line with the undertaking in the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership to strengthen interaction among Customs Administrations.

5. Double intra-BRICS trade by 2020

In his plenary address, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on fellow BRICS leaders to double the value of intra-BRICS trade to $500 billion by  2020. According to Prime Minister Modi, intra-BRICS trade was $250 billion in 2015. He further noted that this target would require “businesses and industry in all five countries to scale up their engagement” and “for governments to facilitate this process to the fullest”.

The full text of the Goa Statement may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Advertisements

WTO Panel rules in US’ Favour in Solar Dispute against India

Alicia Nicholls

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body panel has issued its report in the dispute  India — Certain Measures Relating to Solar Cells and Solar Modules in which the United States challenged the domestic content requirements imposed by India relating to solar cells and solar modules under the latter’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. The Panel found in favour of the US’ view, holding that India’s domestic content requirements were discriminatory and inconsistent with India’s obligations under Article III:4 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 and Article 2:1 of the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs).

The dispute is  one in a growing body of WTO disputes in which one member’s government support programmes for the renewable energy sector (whether local or national) have been challenged by another member as being inconsistent with the former’s obligations under WTO rules. It is therefore not surprising that a long list of countries notified their interests as third parties to this dispute, namely: Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia,Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Chinese Taipei and Turkey.

Background

The Indian Government launched the National Solar Mission (NSM) in January 11, 2010 as one of the eight national missions under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The NSM has the aim to promote the use of solar energy in India, foster energy security and make India a global leader in solar energy. According to the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s website, the NSM’s ambition is “to deploy 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022” and to reduce the cost of solar power generation in India through four key aspects, including domestic production of critical raw materials, components and products.

At the heart of the dispute, the Indian Government required solar developers (or their successors to the contract) to purchase or use solar cells or solar modules of domestic origin in order to be eligible to enter into and maintain certain power purchase agreements under the NSM.

The US argued that these domestic content requirements mandated by the Indian Government under Phases I and II of the NSM were discriminatory and inconsistent with India’s WTO obligations. Specifically, the US challenged the measures’ consistency with Article III:4 of the GATT 1994 (National Treatment), arguing that they accord less favorable treatment to imported products than to like domestically produced goods.Additionally, the US argued that these domestic content requirements were trade-related investment measures which fell within paragraph 1(a) of the Illustrative List of the TRIMs Agreement’s annex and were therefore inconsistent with Article 2.1 of the TRIMs Agreement.

In its defense, India argued that its domestic content requirements at issue were not inconsistent with Article III:4 of the GATT 1994 or Article 2.1 of the TRIMS Agreement. India also sought to rely on the exceptions in  Article III:8(a), Articles XX(j) and/or XX(d) of GATT 1994 (General Exceptions).

The US requested consultations with India initially in February 2013 and then in relation to Phase II of the NSM in February 2014. A panel was established in May 2014 and the parties agreed to the panel’s composition in September of that same year.

Ruling

In its report circulated today, the Panel found in favour of the US’ view. It held that:

  • India’s domestic content requirements in question were trade-related investment measures for the purposes of the Illustrative List in the TRIMs Agreement’s Annex and were therefore inconsistent with Article 2.1 of the TRIMs Agreement.
  • The Panel also found that the domestic content requirements in question do accord “less favourable treatment” within the meaning of Article III:4 of the GATT 1994

In regards to India’s argument about the government procurement derogation under Article III:8(a) of the GATT 1994, the Panel referred to the Appellate Body’s interpretation of that article in the Canada — Renewable Energy / Feed-In Tariff Program dispute in which the EU had successfully challenged domestic content requirements imposed by the Ontario provincial government in relation to its Feed-In Tariff (FIT) programme. Relying on its interpretation in that dispute, the Panel held that discrimination relating to solar cells and modules under the domestic content measures is not covered by Article III:8(a) of the GATT 1994.

The Panel also argued that India failed to show that the domestic content requirements were justified under the general exceptions, Article XX(j) or Article XX(d) of the GATT 1994.

The big picture

What this dispute and others like it concerning domestic support for renewable energy programmes show is the increasing intersection and conflict between  trade and environmental policy, in particular, trade and climate change policy.It is an issue which is more than moot for small island developing States  like Barbados  (a Caribbean leader in solar energy which aims to become a “green economy”) in regards to how much policy space is available to policy makers to provide support for the advancement of the renewable energy sector in the country without running afoul of the country’s WTO obligations.

The relationship between trade and climate policy is one of the issues which was discussed at length in the E15 Initiative Report entitled “Analysis and Options for Strengthening the Global Trade and Investment System for Sustainable Development”, particularly in this think piece  considering “the costs and benefits  for adjusting WTO rules to provide additional policy space to mitigate climate change and promote renewable energy”.

As countries take more aggressive measures in order to meet their national emissions reduction targets in the spirit of the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2 percent above pre-industrial levels (with the best endeavour goal of 1.5 percent), there is likely to be more conflict between WTO rules and climate change policies in years to come. WTO members will be forced to address ways in which the WTO rules can be flexed to more adequately accommodate members’ climate change mitigation policies, while at the same time ensuring that they are not used as a guise for protectionism.

For further information on the US-India Solar dispute, please see the  WTO’s case summary and the full Panel Report.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Embracing ‘Mother India’: Some thoughts on prospects for enhanced India and Trinidad & Tobago trade

Alicia Nicholls

I was quite delighted when I read in the news last week that the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, the Hon Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is currently on a ten day official mission to India at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister, the Hon Manmohan Singh. Though I am not Trinibagonian or Indian for that matter, the news piqued my interest, particularly because I am a firm believer in south-south trade and development.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about the prospects of enhancing Brazil-CARICOM trade. This week, the state visit by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar serves as a good backdrop against which to consider the prospects for enhanced Trinidad & Tobago-India trade.

India-Trinidad & Tobago connection

Trinidad & Tobago proudly calls itself the land of steelpan, calypso and chutney. Successive waves of European colonialism, indenture-ship and later waves of migration have made the twin island republic one of the most multicultural societies in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Trinidad & Tobago and India share more than just a deep passion for cricket. Though separated by many thousands of kilometers of land and sea, they are united by deep historic and cultural bonds rooted in the colonial experience. Indo-Trinibagonians are estimated to comprise 42% of that country’s population. Take a walk down the streets of Port of Spain on an average day and you can see restaurants and street vendors selling Indian-inspired local delicacies like roti and buss-up-shut. The uptempo rhythm of Chutney music shares the airwaves with soca and calypso and national holidays like Indian Arrival Day, Diwali and Eid-ul-Fitr are celebrated with reverence.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose ancestral village is in Bihar in India, is the first woman and the second person of Indian descent to ascend to the reins of Government in Trinidad & Tobago. She is also the first woman of the wider Indian diaspora to become a Head of Government.  Accompanied on the mission by a high-level ministerial and business delegation which also includes cricketing legend, Brian Lara, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar is the chief guest at the 10th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) ‘Global India-Inclusive Growth’ in Jaipur and will be conferred the coveted Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.  The PBD is a prestigious annual event which unites distinguished persons of Indian origin across the world. The event is part of India’s wider efforts to court and harness the potential of its vast diaspora for socio-economic development in the homeland and Trinidad & Tobago has seized the opportunity with open arms.

Trinidad & Tobago-India Bilateral Trade

Trinidad & Tobago and India have long shared strong diplomatic ties, which have been cemented through formal and informal cultural exchanges over the years, including the establishment of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation in Port of Spain and the provision of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme scholarships to  Trinibagonian students each year.

Trinidad & Tobago and India already do a fair and growing amount of bilateral trade.  According to a recent study published by the Export-Import Bank of India, Trinidad & Tobago is the leading country for Indian imports from the region, accounting for 79% in 2009-10 and is the second largest importer of Indian goods from the region (after the Bahamas).  The report reveals that manufactures of metals account for nearly half of Trinidad & Tobago’s imports from India followed by petroleum products, primary & semi-finished iron & steel, pharmaceutical products and plastic & linoleum products. Trinidad & Tobago is also the largest destination for Indian investment in the region, receiving 67.5% of these flows. The main sectors  for Indian investment in Trinidad & Tobago include finance, iron and steel and metal and food processing. Several major Indian multinational firms like Arcelor Mittal and the New India Assurance Co already have a presence in that country. India and Trinidad & Tobago also have a double taxation treaty.

Embracing ‘Mother India’

The move by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar to capitalize on India’s overtures towards engaging its diaspora for homeland development is a smart and strategic one. Despite its current economic woes, India remains one of the most robust and dynamic economies in the world.  Currently the world’s tenth largest economy, India is predicted by the economic think tank the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) to become the world’s  fifth largest economy by 2020.   Besides the gains which Trinidad & Tobago-India trade present for south-south trade, Indian expertise and investment could help in Trinidad & Tobago’s export diversification, while greater trade links with India could help reduce the vulnerability associated with an over-reliance on too few export markets.

Moreover, the move to embrace ‘Mother India’ is one which has global precedent. The Pacific island nation of Mauritius, which bears several similarities with Trinidad & Tobago including a large Indian diaspora, has strategically deepened its economic and cultural links with the sub-continent.  Mauritius is not only among the top direct investors in India, but the island is currently one of the preferred destinations for Indian outward FDI and serves a gateway for Indian investment in Africa.

Though Indian investment in foreign countries has slowed, closer economic ties between India and Trinidad & Tobago could make it easier for Indian businesses to invest in and do business in Trinidad & Tobago and vice-versa.  The Export-Import Bank of India study cited several areas of potential sectors of Indian investment in Trinidad & Tobago, chiefly energy, fish processing, film and ICTs.  Besides its low energy costs, well-skilled workforce and favourable investment climate and incentives package, the twin island republic’s geographic location  has also been touted by its Prime Minister as the perfect base for Indian investment in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region and for Ayurveda and wellness centres specialising in traditional Indian medicine and healing.

In terms of Trinidad & Tobago-India services trade, there is much potential as well given the skills and know-how which Indian professionals could continue to bring to Trinidad & Tobago, particularly in the areas of engineering, traditional Indian medicine and information technology. This expertise sharing will not be one-way. As Prime Minister Persad- Bissessar  acknowledged, Trinidad & Tobago can provide to India over a hundred years of technical expertise in oil and natural gas production. Indeed, Trinidad & Tobago is already sharing this expertise with other developing countries, including Ghana.

There is also much scope for expanded cultural industries trade and tourism given the strong cultural affinity many in the Indo-Trinibagonian community feel with ‘Mother India’ and the popularity of Bollywood music and films in Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad & Tobago has also signaled an intention to promote steelpan music in India. Despite the long distance and prohibitive costs of air travel, Indo-Trinidadians seeking to trace their Indian roots and to learn about their ancestral home could be a good target market for Indian tourism officials. In regards to Indian tourism in Trinidad & Tobago, the Trinidad & Tobago government has already waived visa restrictions on Indians visiting that country for tourism and business purposes within a 90 year period.

Indeed, the prospects for deepening Trinidad & Tobago and Indian trade are bright and exciting. According to the joint statement released by India and Trinidad & Tobago, bilateral agreements have already been signed on cooperation in the areas of air services, culture, technical education and traditional Indian medicine. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has also offered Trinidad & Tobago as a venue for hosting PBDs in the Caribbean. I think it would be useful for Trinidad & Tobago and India to encourage cooperation between their respective investment promotion agencies in order to better inform potential investors of investment opportunities in their respective countries and to facilitate the flow of investments between the two countries.  Just two more days are left in the official visit. I look forward to what other prospects they bring.

Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her here or follow her on Twitter at @LicyLaw.