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Health & Medicine

India to Advocate for Health Workers, Remittances at World Trade Meeting

— March 12, 2024

Indian leaders are preparing to bring major health care topics to the WTO.

As trade ministers gear up for a key meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Abu Dhabi, India is pressing for a collective acknowledgment among the 160-plus member nations that the high costs associated with remittances pose a significant burden, particularly on impoverished countries. India aims to rally support for a reduction in remittance charges while also advocating for a focus on telemedicine and the establishment of a pool of healthcare professionals to effectively respond to pandemics and natural calamities.

While the World Trade Organization members remain divided on several critical fronts such as agriculture, dispute settlement reform, and fisheries agreements, consensus seems elusive. India, for instance, seeks a resolution on public stockholding of grains to enable more flexibility in grain procurement, a stance that clashes with the preferences of the United States and the Cairns Group on one side and the European Union on the other regarding import duties and subsidies.

India is keen on finalizing a decade-old plan to revise the cap on procurement spending at the Abu Dhabi ministerial, although other parties advocate deferring the decision by an additional two years.

Dispute settlement discussions face obstacles, primarily due to the stance of the United States, while disputes over fisheries agreements further complicate matters. India and other nations express dissatisfaction with the expansion of the agenda, fearing adverse implications for the livelihoods of impoverished fishermen, particularly after the developed world and China have exploited fisheries resources to their advantage, causing substantial harm.

Although efforts to exclude China from special and differential treatment designed for developing and least developed countries have drawn attention, Indian officials note that there is relatively less pressure this time, thanks to the diligent efforts of negotiators.

India to Advocate for Health Workers, Remittances at World Trade Meeting
Photo by from Pexels

However, potential challenges persist, especially regarding the inclusion of topics such as women, gender, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the draft text, which, while seemingly neutral, could encounter resistance from the World Trade Organization secretariat and developed nations during the meeting.

India’s interest in remittances takes center stage, with the country emphasizing how financial intermediaries levy exorbitant charges, siphoning off more than $40 billion from migrant workers from poor and developing nations, resulting in remittance costs exceeding 6%.

India advocates leveraging its digital public infrastructure to mitigate these costs, with the benefits earmarked for climate finance, a sector where developing countries face significant expenditure obligations that affluent nations have yet to address comprehensively.

Furthermore, India champions the integration of telemedicine and healthcare professional initiatives into the ministerial declaration to initiate framework development, akin to the approach taken for patent waivers on pandemic medicines, thereby positioning these endeavors to positively impact Indian workers and healthcare facilities.

Beyond international trade and financial services, India’s remittance focus extends into various sectors, reflecting the diverse contributions of its diaspora spread across the globe.

  1. Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Sector: India’s IT and BPO sectors have been crucial in attracting overseas investments and generating substantial remittances. The country’s skilled workforce, coupled with its reputation for innovation and technological prowess, has made it a preferred destination for outsourcing services. Remittances from these sectors bolster India’s foreign exchange reserves and contribute to its economic growth.
  2. Construction and Infrastructure: The construction and infrastructure sectors have witnessed significant contributions from Indian expatriates working on various projects worldwide. Indian workers, known for their expertise and diligence, have been instrumental in the development of infrastructure in countries across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Remittances from these sectors support the livelihoods of millions of families in India and contribute to the nation’s development agenda.
  3. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: India’s healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have emerged as global leaders, with Indian professionals making notable contributions to healthcare delivery and medical research worldwide. Indian doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals working abroad remit significant earnings back to India, supporting families and communities and fueling domestic consumption and investment.
  4. Education and Research: Indian scholars, researchers, and students pursuing higher education and research opportunities abroad contribute to the knowledge economy and scientific advancements globally. Remittances from this sector not only support education and research initiatives in India but also lead to international collaborations and knowledge exchange.
  5. Hospitality and Tourism: India’s hospitality and tourism sectors benefit from remittances generated by Indian expatriates working in hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies worldwide. Indian diaspora communities actively promote tourism to India, facilitating cultural exchanges and economic growth in the hospitality industry.

As the WTO meeting approaches, India’s stance showcases its goal of addressing pressing global challenges while advocating for the interests of developing nations, particularly in the world of health and financial inclusivity.


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