Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) Women’s Wing under the leadership of Chairman Mr Shankar Shinde held their second event to coincide with the introduction and rolling out of CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) on 1st May – free trade agreement the Government of India has signed with United Arab Emirates – an interactive session with Mrs Parul Singh – Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. 

During his welcome address extending warm welcome to all, Mr Shinde spoke about how this FTA with UAE was going to be very important, strengthen the ties between India and UAE even more, the business that would be generated because of this FTA and thanked all for joining on women’s wing on FFFAI Platform.

The session with Mrs Parul Singh was very engaging, interactive and well attended with over 65 participants. Mrs Singh presentation on CEPA, explanation about how CEPA came about, the highlights of the FTA were most informative. The Free Trade Agreement rolled out on 1st May and the first gems and jewellery consignment from Delhi to Dubai was shipped under the FTA.

The Free Trade Agreement is complimentary to The GOI’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat and not contradictory to each other. Miss Chaitaly Mehta the moderator of the event recounted her first meeting with Mrs Singh in Dubai for an event and how Mrs Singh impressed her.

As the name suggests, CEPA is more comprehensive and ambitious than an FTA in terms of partnership across a wider coverage of areas and the type of commitments. While a traditional FTA focuses mainly on goods; a CEPA is more ambitious in terms of a holistic coverage of many areas like services, investment, IPR, government procurement, disputes etc.

Also, for the first time in any Trade Agreement, a separate Annex on Pharmaceuticals has been incorporated to facilitate access of Indian pharmaceuticals products. Pls see points 11 & 12 below.

A few of the important things to be noted about the CEPA Free Trade Agreement are:

The first FTA to be signed by the GOI in last 10 years

UAE was a natural choice because UAE is the 9th largest investor in India. India was the 1st largest export destination for UAE in 2019 and for India UAE is the 3rd largest trading partner with Bilateral trade of USD 59 Billion in FY2019-20 and 2nd largest export destination for the same year with exports of USD 29 Billion

Negotiations were completed in a record 88 days during Covid. It was the fastest negotiated comprehensive bilateral FTA. Covered 12000 products/ 881 pages with 8-digit codes.

Most ambitious FTA negotiated by both sides covering all aspects of the economy

Wide range of Consultations held with all stakeholders, including trade and industry associations, line Ministries and Export Promotion Councils/Boards.

Creation of new employment opportunities across sectors particularly Gems and Jewellery, Textiles/Apparels, Leather, Plastics, Agro-Processing and Engineering sectors

Overseas job creations for Indians in UAE

Overall, the UAE is offering   duty elimination on over 97% of its Tariff Lines which account for 99% of Indian Exports to the UAE.

Only Direct exports will be eligible to avail concessions under the Agreement. Transhipped goods/reports are excluded

Condition of “melt and pour” as Product Specific Rule for Steel products for the first time introduced in an Indian FTA

India’s First Mutual Recognition Agreement: a separate Annex on Pharmaceuticals is there to facilitate access of Indian generic medicines.

Indian medicines will now get Automatic Registration and Marketing Authorisation in 90 days for products approved by the relevant Regulatory Authorities of Australia, Canada, European Union, Japan, The United States of America and United Kingdom

A breakthrough feature of the CEPA is the definitive permanent safeguard mechanism which has been agreed upon and can be restored to in a situation of sudden surge of imports

Larger access for Indian products and goods to Middle East and Africa Markets as UAE is a gateway to all of Africa.

Rules of Region – no re-export by UAE under CEPA and hence re-exports don’t enjoy CEPA benefits

Market Access Commitment by UAE in 111 out of 160 sub sectors

Certificate of Origin to be issued by Ministry of Economy and not the Chamber of Commerce

The Q&A session saw large participation and questions ranged on CAROTAR to Logistics sector being excluded from CEPA to CEPA requiring to be completely and totally on the digital platform like the South Korean FTA which according to the Logistics Industry is one of the best models of FTA with India to Gati Shakti- advantages and game changer for the Logistics Industry.

According to Mrs Singh FTA agreement is equitable and just. It is a Win-Win situation for all. The team from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry working on CEPA were divided into 7/8 areas. Dr Sheetal Reddy was the Chief Negotiator.

The next half of the session was equally interesting as it focussed on the life of a Bureaucrat namely Mrs Parul Singh, her entry into the GOI and her views on Women working in a Man’s World.

Couple of her statements were not only profound but gave another dimension to everyone present because what she said was so true.

“Cinderella Syndrome” that women should not suffer from; Ladies are trained to be perfect and change in that mindsight is required; Girls should be raised to be Imperfect and not Perfect whereas Boys are trained to take Risks but not Girls are just some of the pearls of wisdom she shared with the engrossed audience.

Mrs Parul Singh was honest, forthright, very approachable and like a breath of fresh air genuine and true in her speech.

The vote of thanks was given by Mrs Philomena Pereira Mentor to the Women’s Wing.

FFFAI looks forward to more such sessions with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with more FTAs in pipeline. It is indeed a very interesting time to be in the EXIM trade.