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Cabinet panel on WTO to discuss revised offer on services this week

Our Bureau

New Delhi , May 25

THE Government is looking to improving the country's offer on services at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the hope that the developed countries would reciprocate by allowing a liberalised visa/work permit regime for the movement of professionals from India.

The Cabinet Committee on WTO Affairs is to soon take up for discussion and approval the country's revised offer on services for negotiations at the WTO. The revised offer is to be submitted by May 31.

"The revised offer proposals would be little more ambitious than the initial proposals", the Commerce Secretary, Mr S. N. Menon, told the chief secretaries of the State governments and the Union Territories at a workshop on `State of play at the WTO negotiations'.

He said the Department of Commerce was in the process of finalising the revised offer on services. "The revised offer would go to the Cabinet. The Cabinet Committee on WTO Affairs is likely to meet during the course of this week," he said.

However, he did not elaborate on the revised offer proposals.

Under the WTO, services negotiations are carried on a `request and offer' basis. Services account for more than 50 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. The Commerce Secretary made it clear that India has "offensive interest" in the liberalisation of the world market for services, especially in Mode 1 (cross border) and Mode 4 (movement of natural persons).

Senior officials said that India had in its initial offers submitted proposals in respect of nine key sectors. This time round, in the revised offer, they expect the coverage of the sub-sectors to be further widened.

The Commerce Secretary also indicated that steps would be taken to "reactivate" the Group of Ministers that was earlier looking into issues relating to both agriculture and non-agricultural market access.

"We think the time is ripe for it," he said. The Commerce Ministry anticipates intense negotiating activities in the run-up to the next WTO Ministerial conference at Hong Kong in December.

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