India plans to allay the fears of African countries which have dismissed its proposal for a global agreement on trade in services that includes easing travel for work across borders.

African nations, led by South Africa, had red flagged India’s proposal fearing it would open the doors for e-commerce in the name of easing cross border flow of information in services.

India wants to build consensus on a comprehensive agreement to ease global trade in services and the support of African countries is critical as they have been New Delhi’s traditional ally in trade negotiations.

“African countries feel e-commerce might creep in through the agreement. We need to assuage their fears. We need an approach of flexibility,” said an official in the know of the development.

Among other concerns, the Africa group had asked how the proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) would impact its members’ right to regulate.

India has proposed allowing cross-border transfer of information including personal information by electronic means to boost supply of services among various countries and this is being understood as e-commerce by the African group. India has also recommended negotiating recognition arrangements pertaining to data privacy and security.

“India is talking to many groups but no one is willing to take the bait,” said a person aware of the matter.

An expert on trade matters said most countries don’t consider India a data secure nation and hence, not confident of the proposal in its current form.

On being asked if India is tweaking its proposal to take into account Africa group’s apprehensions, the official said: “These are negotiations. We are still discussing.”

Though the Africa group said there were many issues which required in-depth analysis, it felt elements such as Mode 4 could be useful for them. Mode 4 services refer to temporary entry and stay of professionals.

India’s paper found support from Brazil, Colombia and Turkey.

The proposal has provisions relating to facilitating trade in services, development as well as institutional provisions and follows a concept note floated in October and a detailed elements paper in November last year.


India to assure African countries on services trade