18TH FEBRUARY CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement with Mauritius

News: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius.

The salient features of India-Mauritius CECPA are as follows:

  • The India-Mauritius CECPA will be the first trade Agreement to be signed by India with a country in Africa.
  • The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover the following areas.
  • Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin,
  • Trade in Services,
  • Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT),
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures,
  • Dispute Settlement,
  • Movement of Natural Persons,
  • Telecom,
  • Financial services,
  • Customs Procedures and
  • Cooperation in other Areas

Benefits:

  • CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries. The CECPA between India and Mauritius covers 310 export items for India, including food stuff and beverages (80 lines), agricultural products (25 lines), textile and textile articles (27 lines), base metals and articles thereof (32 lines), electricals and electronic item (13 lines), plastics and chemicals (20 lines), wood and articles thereof (15 lines), and others.
  • Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.
  • As regards trade in services, Indian service providers will have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors such as professional services, computer related services, research & development, other business services, telecommunication, construction, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism & travel related, recreational, yoga, audio-visual services, and transport services.
  • India has offered around 95 sub-sectors from the 11 broad services sectors, including professional services, R&D, other business services, telecommunication, financial, distribution, higher education, environmental, health, tourism and travel related services, recreational services and transport services.
  • Both sides have also agreed to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) for a limited number of highly sensitive products within two years of the Signing of the Agreement.

India-Mauritius Relations:

  • India and Mauritius enjoy excellent bilateral relations, sustained by historic cultural affinities, frequent high-level political interactions, development cooperation, defence and maritime partnership, and people to people linkages.
  • Mauritius is an important development partner of India. India had extended a ‘Special Economic Package’ of USD 353 million to Mauritius in 2016.
  • The new Supreme Court building project is one of the five projects being implemented under this package and was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth in July 2020.
  • In October 2019, Prime Minister Modi and the PM of Mauritius had jointly inaugurated the Phase -I of the Metro Express Project and the 100-bed state of the art ENT hospital project in Mauritius, also built under the special economic package.
  • Since 2005, India has been among the largest trading partners of Mauritius, and has been one of the largest exporters of goods and services to Mauritius.
  • According to the International Trade Centre (ITC), in 2019, the main import partners of Mauritius were India (13.85%), China (16.69%), South Africa (8.07%), and UAE (7.28%).
  • The bilateral trade between India and Mauritius has registered a growth of 233% from USD 206.76 million in Financial Year (FY) 2005-06 to USD 690.02 million in FY 2019-20.
  • India’s exports to Mauritius surged 232% from USD 199.43 million in FY 2005-06 to USD 662.13 million in FY 2019-20, while India’s imports from Mauritius increased 280% from USD7.33 million in 2005-06 to USD 27.89 million in FY 2019-20.

2. Amendment in Juvenile Justice Act

News: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Objective:

  • It aims to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children.

Highlights of the amendments:

  • The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance  accountability.
  • The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions.
  • Defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’ are some of the other aspects of the proposal.
  • Several difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act have also been addressed.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000to comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • The Act changes the nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’. Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
  • It also includes several new and clear definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children
  • Included special provisions to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
  • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
  • A separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption procedures for an orphan, abandoned and surrendered children,
  • Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • The Act states that the adoption of a child is final on the issuance of an adoption order by the court. Currently, there are 629 adoption cases pending in various
  • The Act included several new offences committed against children (like, illegal adoptions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children, etc) which are not adequately covered under any other law.
  • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.

3. New York Convention

News: Cairn Energy has filed a case in a U.S. district court to enforce a $1.2 billion arbitration award it won in a tax dispute against India. Cairn aims to enforce the award under international arbitration rules, commonly called the New York Convention.

Background:

  • The Indian government has lost an international arbitration case to energy giant Cairn Plc over the retrospective levy of taxes and has been asked to pay damages worth $1.2 billion to the UK firm.
  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has maintained that the Cairn tax issue is not a tax dispute but a tax-related investment dispute and, hence, it falls under its jurisdiction.
  • India’s demand in past taxes, it said, was in breach of fair treatment under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty.

New York Convention:

  • The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the “New York Arbitration Convention” or the “New York Convention”, is one of the key instruments in international arbitration.
  • Arbitration is a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators (an independent person/body) who make a binding decision on the dispute. It applies to the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and the referral by a court to arbitration.
  • The Convention was adopted by the United Nations (UN)following a diplomatic conference held in May and June 1958 at the UN Headquarters in New York, and entered into force on 7th June, 1959.
  • The Convention has 166 state parties(Countries). India is a party to the Convention.

Objectives:

  • The Convention’s principal aim is that foreign and non-domestic arbitral awards should not be discriminated against by courts asked to enforce them.
  • It obliges Contracting States to ensure foreign awards are recognised and generally capable of enforcement in their jurisdiction in the same way as domestic awards.
  • To require courts of Contracting States to uphold valid arbitration agreements and stay court proceedings in respect of matters which the parties have agreed should be resolved by arbitration.
  • By signing up to the Convention, a state agrees that its courts will respect and enforce parties’ agreements to arbitrate, and to recognise and enforce any resulting arbitral award in its jurisdiction subject to only very limited grounds for refusal.

4. World Trade Organization

News: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the leading international trade body. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first African official and the first woman to hold the position.

About WTO:

  • The WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1947. The Uruguay Round (1986-94) of the GATT led to the WTO’s creation. WTO began operations on 1st January, 1995. The Agreement Establishing the WTO, commonly known as the “Marrakesh Agreement”, was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1994.
  • WTO is an international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
  • Main difference between GATT and WTO was that GATT mostly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements could not only cover goods but also trade in services and other intellectual properties like trade creations, designs, and inventions.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

Members:

  • The WTO has 164 members(including European Union) and 23 observer governments (like Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, Libya etc). India is a founder member of the 1947 GATT and its successor, the WTO.

Structure of WTO:

  • Structure of the WTO is dominated by its highest authority, the Ministerial Conference, composed of representatives of all WTO members, which is required to meet at least every two years and which can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.
  • General Council is composed of all WTO members and is required to report to the Ministerial Conference. General Council convenes in two particular forms:
  1. Dispute Settlement Body: To oversee the dispute settlement procedures.
  2. Trade Policy Review Body: To conduct regular reviews of the trade policies of individual WTO members.

Objectives:

  • To set and enforce rules for international trade.
  • To provide a forum for negotiating and monitoring further trade liberalization.
  • To resolve trade disputes.
  • To increase the transparency of decision-making processes.
  • To cooperate with other major international economic institutions involved in global economic management.
  • To help developing countries benefit fully from the global trading system.

Achievements of WTO:

  • By building binding rules for global trade in goods and services, WTO has facilitated dramatic growth in cross-border business activity. The WTO has not only enhanced the value and quantity of trade but has also helped in eradicating trade and non-trade barriers.
  • Since 1995, the value of world trade has nearly quadrupled, while the real volume of world trade has expanded by 2.7 times. Domestic reforms and market-opening commitments have resulted in the lasting boost to national income of nations.
  • The predictable market conditions fostered by the WTO, have combined with improved communications to enable the rise of global value chains, trade within these value chains today accounts for almost 70% of total merchandise trade.
  • The least-developed countries receive extra attention in the WTO. All the WTO agreements recognize that they must benefit from the greatest possible flexibility, and better-off members must make extra efforts to lower import barriers on least-developed countries’ exports.

Recent Challenges:

  • China’s state-owned enterprises present a major challenge to the free-market global trading system and the rulebook of the WTO is inadequate for addressing these challenges.
  • It is due to this that USA-China are also engaged in Trade war.
  • The Appellate Body’s operations have effectively been suspended since December 2019, as the USA’s blocking of appointments has left the body without a quorum of adjudicators needed to hear appeals.
  • The crisis with the dispute settlement function of the WTO is closely linked to the breakdown in its negotiation function. There is a problem in WTO negotiations as there is no agreed definition of what constitutes a developed or developing country at the WTO.
  • Members can currently self-designate as developing countries to receive ‘special and differential treatment’ – a practice that is the subject of much contention. While the global trade landscape has changed significantly over the past 25 years, WTO rules have not kept pace.
  • In 1998, realizing that e-commerce would play a growing role in the global economy, WTO members established a WTO e-commerce moratorium to examine all trade-related issues relating to global electronic commerce.
  • Recently, however, the moratorium has been called into question by developing countries because of its implications for collecting revenue. Agreement on agriculture is facing issues due to food security and development requirements for developing countries like India.