New Delhi, Nov 13 (UNI) Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh today expressed concern at the loss of livelihood of Plantation workers in South India due to cheaper imports from Vietnam and asked experts to work out innovative mechanisms for managing trade adjustment costs resulting from freer international trade.
''Trade adjustment costs have to be borne by the vulnerabe sections of society,'' Mr Ramesh said while delivering the Valedictory address at the High-Level Conference on 'Asian Economic Integration; Agenda for the East Asia Summit.' The two-day event was organised by the Research and Information System for the Developing Countries (RIS) in colaboration with Institute of South Asian Studies(ISEAS), Singapore.
Mr Ramesh said plantation workers, including those producing tea and coffee, have been hit by imports from Vietnam. The producers of these commodities in the South East Asian country have higher productivity and are more price competitive as compared to their counterparts in India.
He said as India liberalises its international trade by entering into Free Trade Agreements with more and more countries it was incumbent that appropriate adjustment systems are worked out to protect Indian producers and manufacturers.
''While International trade results in macro gains, it inflicts micro pain,'' he said.
Mr Ramesh, however, said that it was critical that plantation producers should improve their productivity and become more competitive.
The Minister outlined a framework under which India has entered into FTAs with countries, with those where negotiations are in an advanced stage and those with which it plans to do so.
In the first category is Sri Lanka and Thailand. In the case of Sri Lanka, exports from that country have increased, thus narrowing the huge trade gap, he said.
In the case of Thailand, initial benefits have accrued more to that country than India.
Mr Ramesh said an FTA is under negotiation with the ASEAN Grouping and added that India has displayed extreme flexibility and accomdation in working out the Agreement.
He said an FTA is being planned with countries like South Korea and Japan with talks being at an early stage.
Mr Ramesh said the North Eastern region stands to gain from closer integration with Asia because of geograhical proximity to these countries.
''The North East needs closer political integration with the rest of India and closer economic integration with Asia,'' he said.
The Conference delierated upon the economic and startegic relevance of Asian economic integration in the East Asian Summit framework next week and the specific issues concerning trade and investment as also money and finance. It also helped evolve a business perspective on the emerging comprehensive economic parnetrship of EAS countries.