Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Discourses on Varied Topics During US Trip


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is currently in the US on an official visit. On Tuesday (Monday in the US), she engaged in a discussion on a varied range of topics including free trade agreements, cryptocurrencies and globalisation. 

Sitharaman declared that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs to be more progressive and should provide a platform for countries with something different to express. She also said that India wants globalisation to be more lucid. 

In Regards to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

At the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the Finance Minister said that India is currently in negotiations with Britain, the European Union and Canada for FTAs. She also said that these negotiations are currently in motion. 

“FTAs are being signed at a much faster rate now. We recently made one with Australia. We have also concluded ones with UAE, Mauritius and the ASEAN. We have allowed Least Developed Countries to have quota-free and tariff-free regime,” she said. 

In Relation to Globalisation

Sitharaman emphasised that India is not looking to reverse the benefits of globalisation, rather, it is asking for it to be more transparent. 

“It’s not to say that we need to reverse the advantages of globalisation. We want it to be more lucid,” she said in response to a query. She also mentioned that India has enough domestic purchasing power, which can be taken advantage of in order to produce goods domestically, instead of buying them from abroad, which are cheaper.

“So, it has become profitable for producers to manufacture goods domestically, which would have otherwise been imported due to their low cost. This is due to the domestic market’s large consumer base and the high purchasing power,” she added. 

Regarding Cryptocurrency

Sitharaman said that cryptocurrencies are an important part in the discussion during India’s G20 presidency. 

“Given the number of collapses and shocks in cryptocurrencies, we are looking to develop a common framework for all countries to deal with this matter,” she said in a roundtable meeting with entrepreneurs and investors which was hosted by CII, US India Business Council and US Chamber.

She also highlighted India’s robust digital public infrastructure such as Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) and Account Aggregator platform, which have enabled small business owners to access credit and other digital services.

Sitharaman encouraged the participants to become part of India’s transformational journey which is leading to greater prosperity, better living standards for its citizens and higher returns for investors.

With Regard to WTO

Sitharaman said India wants the WTO to be more progressive and to give more space to countries that have something different to say. 

“I would want the WTO to be more progressive, and to listen to all countries. It needs to give more space to countries which have something distinctive to say, and not just hear, but take action. We need to have greater openness in the WTO,” she said. She also quoted US Commerce Secretary Katherine Tai, who had recently spoken on the topic of traditional trading approach and market liberalization.

“If the US Commerce Secretary feels that way, the same was true for India in 2014 and 2015. The global South countries have the same opinion. We have already extended quota-free, tariff-free trading policy to all Least Developed Countries,” she added.

“What does liberalization mean? How much tariff reduction? These are questions that countries are now asking. It has had cost repercussions for the US economy, and that’s what the US Commerce Secretary has said. Countries like India have faced similar issues since a long time now,” she said. 

(With agency inputs)

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