Free trade agreements (FTA) will only be possible if Indian companies are willing to be generous and potentially exit some lines of business where they are uncompetitive, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said Thursday.
The government is currently in talks for 20 FTAs with six of them being a priority for it, according to officials.
“I can assure you that no FTA will cause (losses) to you (industry), and each FTA will be agreed upon after discussions,” Goyal said at Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) India @75 event, asking that the industry not become “petty” in seeking opening up of trade only in certain areas and opposing trade in sectors where they are producers.
In 2019, the Centre had backed out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 15 countries noting that the final deal did not address the government’s issues and concerns.
“You may not be competitive in certain areas. Leave those areas. Every country can’t be competitive in every area. We need to exploit our strengths but we will need to show generosity in some areas, only then will FTAs be possible,” Goyal said at the event.
Some key FTAs that the government is currently focussing on include those with the UAE, UK and Australia, according to officials. The Centre has also called for an early review of the ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement.
The minister also called on the industry to invest in skilling programmes, noting that the industry itself would be the greatest beneficiary of the increased availability of a skilled workforce. He said such programmes would help reduce inequality. “The country has a limit on how long it tolerate such vast inequality.