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1. Ambassador Kishan S Rana is a Former Diplomat, Professor Emeritus & Senior Fellow at Diplo Foundation. Ambassador to Algeria., Czechoslovakia, Kenya, (and Consul General, San Francisco, 1986-89), and then to Mauritius, and Germany. In 1981-83 he served as a Joint Secretary in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Office for a year, and directly after that, headed personnel administration in the Ministry of External Affairs.

2. Prof. Kala Krishna is Liberal Arts Research Professor of Economics at the Pennsylvania State University.She has consulted for the World Bank and the IMF. Her research interests are in Trade, Development, Industrial Organisation, Political Economy, Auctions, Crime and most recently Education.

3. Asoke Kumar Mukerji is a former Indian diplomat and author of 7 books. He was Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from April 2013 to December 2015. Mukerji worked as a trade negotiator in the newly formed World Trade Organization between 1995-98. He was among the first Indian officials tasked with representing India in trade disputes involving India brought before the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism.

4. R.V. Anuradha is a Partner at Clarus Law Associates, New Delhi and heads her firm’s practice in International Trade and Investment Law and Policy. Anuradha advises companies, industry associations and the Government of India on issues arising under the WTO Agreements, Free Trade Agreements, and Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements, including disputes arising under such agreements.

SYNOPSIS: India has long been seen as an uncompromising, difficult nation to #trade with. Despite fervent denials, its ’#makeinindia campaign was viewed as a protectionist move in some quarters globally. What further reinforced the reputation was India’s last-minute withdrawal from the world’s largest free trade agreement - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (#RCEP), which left observers baffled both outside and within India. Experts fretted about what seemed like India veering into an isolated cocoon, just as the rest of Asia was becoming more integrated. However, the naysayers may have misread the situation, or the Indian leadership has awoken to the possibilities of a deeper and wider global economic integration in a post covid world.

New Delhi has set an ambitious export shipment target of US$450-$500 billion by FY23, against US$291 billion in FY21. This explains why early harvest deals and full #freetradeagreements (#FTAs) have assumed newfound importance to an otherwise trade conservative regime. #Indianexports touched US$197.89 billion in the period from April to September 2021, up 57 percent from the same period in the previous year. Over the last two years, India has been in discussion for free trade agreements with several partners – both bilateral and regional – in a bid to boost export-oriented domestic manufacturing. After concluding FTA with UAE in record time and Australia most recently, India is now fast-tracking its negotiations with the United Kingdom and the #europeanunion Union.

Additionally, the growing list of countries and regional blocs negotiating trade deals with India comprises Russia, Canada, the GCC, and the Southern African Customs Union. Has India finally overcome its fear of #foreigntrade ? What are the ramifications for India in so far as this newfound enthusiasm for trade agreements is concerned? Does it signal a shift in the Indian foreign #tradepolicy? Has ‘#newindia ’ now decided to aggresively engage nations independently of multilateral institutions in what is increasingly becoming a multi-polar world?

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