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Exporting nations to waive duties on 200 IT products



Geneva: Nations exporting IT products have agreed to waive tariff on about 200 of them, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Saturday.

“In all, 54 WTO members agreed to eliminate tariff on 201 IT products, whose combined value is $1.3 trillion and accounts for 7 percent of the global trade,” WTO said in a statement here.

Products include new generation semi-conductors (chips), GPS navigation, medical equipment, as well as machine tools for manufacturing printed circuits, telecommunications satellites and touch screens.

Terming the deal a landmark, WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said the IT accord was larger than similar agreements in automotive products, textiles, clothing, iron and steel.

“Eliminating tariff will have a huge impact on prices in other sectors where IT products are used as inputs, create jobs and help boost GDP growth the world over,” Azevedo said, after members agreed to implement the accord on Friday.

Claiming it to be the first of its kind at the trade body in 18 years, Azevedo said the deal was struck just two years after members agreed to the historic package to lower trade barriers at Bali in Indonesia in December 2013.

“We have shown multilateral trading system can deliver real economic results, as evident from the two deals in two years,” Azevedo said.

Asserting that all 161 members of the trade body would benefit from the deal, as they would enjoy duty-free market access in markets, Azevedo said its terms would be circulated at the WTO general council meeting on July 28.

The deal will eliminate major tariff on the 201 products within three years from 2016.

“Exporting members will submit a draft schedule on the terms to other members in October and ahead of the next ministerial conference at Nairobi in Kenya in December,” Azevedo added.

The deal also envisages removing non-tariff barriers in the IT sector and to keep a list of products covered under review to determine expansion in future.

The latest deal is an expansion of the 1996 IT agreement by 81 members then.

When members recognized that technological innovation had advanced so much that many of the new IT products were not covered under the 1996 pact, they began negotiations in 2012 for expanding the list.


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India-Australia ties can be changed through Education

Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations

Education can improve India-Australia ties. Image Source:
  • Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations
  • New Delhi is acutely aware of the importance of quality education, without which the benefits of the demographic dividend might be squandered and reduced
  • With GDP growth rates set to cross eight per cent through sustained high economic performance, the demand for higher education will consistently grow

The platform for a transformational change in bilateral relations was laid when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia in November 2014. Deviating from the script, he spoke of India-Australia relations as “a natural partnership arising from our shared values and aspirations”. He was not talking about cricket, the Commonwealth or curry.

His visit marked a historic shift from the neglect that had held the bilateral relations hostage for nearly 30 years. When he said that he saw Australia as a major partner in every area of India’s national priority, he was, in fact, changing the vocabulary from the 3Cs to the 3E’s: economy, energy, and education. This disruptive transition necessarily requires a shift in mindset from a lukewarm, limited and uninformed engagement to one that is robust, dynamic and aspirational.

It needs to be recognized that when Chief Minister Modi became the Prime Minister of India two years ago, his government faced enormous developmental challenges — both economic and social. This was further aggravated by the wholly unrealistic expectations in terms of the speed and intensity with which his electoral promise of “aache din” (better times) would be translated. He was acutely aware of India’s structural and other limitations in being able to achieve this within an abbreviated time-frame.

PM Narendra Modi. Image Source: PTI
PM Narendra Modi. Image Source: PTI

Consequently, he reached out to the global community. In his view, as he said in the Australian parliament, partnerships require that countries stand together at a moment of enormous opportunity and great responsibility.

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Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations.

India’s demographic trend will soon see it overtaking China as the most populous country. Currently, over 50 percent of India’s population, or around 600 million, are under 25 years of age. Within the next five years, India will have the largest tertiary age population in the world. Second, the middle class is expected to swell to around 500 million.

With GDP growth rates set to cross eight per cent through sustained high economic performance, the demand for higher education will consistently grow. Coupled with the series of reforms and new initiatives through programmes such as Make in India, Clean Ganga, Digital India, Smart Cities, Start-up India and the like, exceptional possibilities for tie-ups with international institutions that embed education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in their teaching pedagogy have opened up. In addition, the demand for vocational education and training is expected to see an exponential surge. This suggests that India will emerge as the biggest opportunity for top quality international education providers in the 21st century.

India's GDP growth. Image Source:
India’s GDP growth. Image Source:

New Delhi is acutely aware of the importance of quality education, without which the benefits of the demographic dividend might be squandered and reduced, in fact, to a demographic disaster. Large numbers of young would be jobless and could easily be lured into criminal and anti-social activity.

Indeed, one of the biggest challenges India faces is the horrific mismatch between the significant demand for education and its abysmally low supply. Archaic pedagogical techniques, coupled with dodgy fly-by-night education providers, have delinked education from employability. Consequently, it is no surprise that a large number of the unemployed are, in fact, educated.

In addition, as geography digitally shrinks and work environments increasingly become multi-cultural, the Indian workforce would need to embrace global standards and innovation. This can only be achieved through education that departs from the 19th-century mindsets to a more futuristic one.

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A systemic transformation of the education system is, therefore, inescapable. At the same time, New Delhi realizes the urgency of the massive challenge it faces in terms of qualified teachers and faculty, schools, universities, vocational training centres and infrastructure.

University of Sydney. Image Source: Reuters
The university of Sydney. Image Source: Reuters

It is estimated that by 2020, India would need 40 million university places, which is an increase of 14 million or two million starting now over the next seven years, and 500 million skilled workers. While online education might address part of the problem, it is not likely to be the solution, especially not in the vocational training sector. The footprint simply has to dramatically increase if the demographic dividend is to substantively contribute to economic growth and wellbeing in India.

The sheer magnitude of this exceptional opportunity makes it an attractive business proposition. Statistics suggest that even if India succeeds in achieving its target of 30 per cent gross enrolment rate by 2020 in the tertiary sector, 100 million eligible students would not be admitted to university because of the shortage of seats.

This lack of supply and the increasing ability of the middle class to pay for higher education in quality institutions allows for Australian and other world-class education providers to emerge as a viable alternative.

Innovative ways of collaborating with Indian educational institutions and vocational training centres would need to emerge as the new strategy. At one level, this entails tapping into the huge unfulfilled demand but for a sustainable model to be built, international collaboration must include joint research projects with partner Indian institutions and the corporate sector.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the scale of demand in the education sector would be unprecedented. In Modi’s vision, it is this historic challenge that represents the moment of enormous opportunity and the great responsibility for India-Australia relations. It would be the test of true partnership.

India-Australia relations has never witnessed such expectations and hope among so many that a new chapter in bilateral relations is about to be written. After 30 years of neglection, time has come for collaboration in education and training could provide the much-awaited tipping point. Losing this opportunity will turn out to be a major setback. 

-by Amit Dasgupta for IANS


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India’s fuel consumption to grow in 18 months


New Delhi, India’s GDP growth and low global crude oil prices will lead to the country to higher fuel consumption over the next 18 months, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday.

“We expect the Indian economy to grow at a faster pace, with GDP growth for the fiscal year ending March 2016 at 7 percent and 7.5 percent for the following year,” Moody’s said in a report.

The report said improved economic growth coupled with low oil prices will support higher consumption of refined petroleum products in India over the next 18 months.

“Lower crude prices will reduce refiners’ feedstock costs and minimise working capital requirements, which together with healthy earnings, will boost cash flows and allow refiners to reduce borrowings,” the ratings agency said in “Refining and Marketing – Asia Outlook Stable on Modest EBITDA Growth, Easing Supply Overhang”.

It said state-run Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) have reduced their debt levels over the past 12 months.

Moody’s estimated that 300,000 barrels per day of new capacity from IOC’s Paradip refinery and 112,000 bpd from expansion of Bharat Petroleum’s Kochi refinery will come online through 2016.

“We anticipate the current wave of capacity additions will reduce refiners’ production costs and boost refining complexity. This capacity to produce more higher-value distillates per barrel of crude oil will also amplify supply pressure,” it said.

Moody’s also expects the region’s improved supply-demand balance would encourage regional refiners to keep refinery utilisation rates stable over the next 18 months amidst increasing capacity.