Millennium Post

Saarc must work together to push services trade: Govt

South Asian countries need to work together with a "strong business agenda" in services trade as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) region has huge potential, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said on Saturday. "South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries of this region need to work together with a very strong business agenda to take advantage of our geographical proximity, cultural similarities and economic complementaries that we all have in this region," she said here.

She was speaking at the valedictory session of the Global Exhibition on Services (GES) here. So far, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation member countries have focused on promoting tourism in the region.

India is looking at widening the ambit "so that we make these opportunities in our region a reality and improve the level of prosperity and economic development in this region". There are other areas too that the government is working on, such as formulating standards and working with different departments and states to improve ecosystem to boost services trade.

While India is a major services exporter, its share in the global trade is less, she said, adding that the ministry is focusing on quality and standards and considering a series of steps to boost the sector's exports. "We have been keen on pushing this sector in our trade agreements. We have been looking at issues of competitiveness across sectors in the form of reforms and liberalisation and focusing on the trade policy," she said.

"We are doing this through working closely with our fellow ministries, agencies in the sectors and regulators so that we have certain clear-cut sectors where the reform agenda is outlined," Teaotia said, adding that the government is according equal importance to legal, education, architecture, tourism and logistics.

The aim of working with states is to create an enabling environment through policy space and regulatory framework to facilitate growth of services. "We are also looking at issues across states, the industry and ministries so that we are able to tap the full potential.

In terms of our trade, we are looking at new geographies... we hope we will be able to focus on other languages (besides English) so that we are able to explore more geographies and some markets," the secretary said.

Speaking at the same event, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the challenge is to provide high-quality services at an affordable price. According to her, value for money is a key parameter for the services sector. . 

Citing the example of the Mars mission and its low cost, Sitharaman expressed confidence that Indian service providers too can deliver on cost, quality and standards and asserted that the Indian healthcare sector is ready to take on the global challenge.

The minister also referred to China evincing interest in collaboration with Indian television and film content providers. The three-day exhibition ended on Saturday, which attracted 20,000 business visitors, 450 exhibitors, including 25 from foreign countries and 500 overseas delegates. There were in all 3,000 B2B meetings and 20 odd conferences covering 17 sectors. The exhibition will be held at Pragati Maidan next year.

India recently called on the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries to cooperate in addressing the impact of Climate Change on the agriculture sector. as South Asia is one of the most sensitive regions with regard to this phenomenon. 
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