Cabinet nod to preferential trade in services for less-developed countries

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The union cabinet on Wednesday approved preferential treatment by India to least developed countries (LDCs) in the World Trade Organisation system for trade in services.

India will notify preferential treatment to the LDCs in trade in services in respect of market access, technical assistance and capacity building and waiver of visa fees for LDC applicants applying for Indian business and employment visas, said a cabinet communique.

“The preferences will be bound with validity for 15 years from the date of notification by India,” it said, adding that a “generous offer in trade in Services by India should win the country goodwill of LDCs”.

The communique said India has already made a very generous offer to LDCs in the trade in goods in the form of the Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTF) scheme.

India had, earlier this year, promised preferential market access for services suppliers from the LDCs, which has enhanced the country’s image as a generous partner of the poorest nations in global trade.

The Indian offer includes market access for short-term contractual services suppliers and independent professions in sectors like engineering and integrated engineering services, computer and related services and management consulting services.

The offer also includes access to project management services other than for construction, hotel and other lodging services, travel and tour operator services and a quota of 250 tourist guides in non-English foreign languages.

The Indian government has also announced it will waive the visa fee for applicants from these countries applying for Indian business or employment visas.

As part of technical assistance and capacity building, India will train financial candidates from LDCs at the Reserve Bank of India and also conduct a specially designed course for around 1,000 LDC professionals each year in areas such as management consulting, technical consulting, and project management.

India’s preferential treatment to the LDCs in trade in services would involve an annual cost of Rs.6.5 crore on account of waiver of visa fees and Rs.2.5 to R.3 crore for providing training in management and technical consultancy courses to LDC applicants, the commerce ministry said.

“As regards offers under Article XVI of the GATS (Market Access) is concerned, there are no direct financial implications,” it added.

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