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The EU-India FTA saved is human-rights earned

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EU Trade Agreements are subjected to a three pronged review before the European Parliament (EP), Council and the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ordinarily would widen the net for any agreement that falls foul of human-rights ethos to be rescinded. This is not mere comity but a treaty obligation under Article 1 of the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Policy. The EU has taken several initiatives that show its commitments. It has started the EU Cities Award for Fair and Ethical Trade to allow member-state consumers to undertake informed decisions, passed resolutions to halt EU imports of minerals that fund conflicts and forced labour, has advocated for torture-free trade related UN Convention and has recently been incorporating legally-binding labour and environment standards in all its agreements with a specific reference to Paris Agreement. However, since all three bodies at the EU pursue different goals, the conditionality clauses have not always been uniform.[1]

Several of its agreements have been halted over contentious issues of human-rights, such as the EU FTAs with Malaysia, Thailand El Salvador. EU-Myanmar Negotiations on Bilateral Investment have halted after 5 rounds of negotiations because of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Negotiations for a renewed agreement with Russia have also been suspended by the European Council since March, 2014 (annexation of Crimea). EU has also started an official procedure which could lead to suspension of the EU Cambodia Preferential Trading Status because of violation of human rights and labour rights. It has attempted to modernise the first-generation FTAs (executed before 2005) to include more ‘rule and value based’ systems (Mexico, since April 2018) and consistently provided macro-financial assistance to countries like Jordan and Tunisia hosting Syrian refugees, to improve their balance of payments. However, there have been criticisms that in its attempts to forge economic deals with more industrialised states, it has been willing to compromise on the human-rights aspects. A few authors believe, that the EU’s diminishing importance as a commercial hub over emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil, might be reason.

The EU-India Free Trade Agreement (‘FTA’) negotiations that commenced around 2007, have been stalled since 2013 over several issues including India’s dismal record of its treatment of minorities and human-rights defenders, its position on Kashmir (and lately, the Citizenship Amendment Act) and environmental and labour standards such as its tolerance of bonded and child labour. Agreed, there have been a few agreements pursued (1994 Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development and the 2004 Strategic Partnership agreement), but they have been more in the nature of political statements than binding economic commitments.

There are also a few concerns emerging with an ‘EU-wide advocacy’ solution, for several reasons including: the marked increase in populist right-wing led governments (for instance, Hungary), rising grievances against the high standards propounded by courts such as the Abu Qatada judgement of the ECtHR which upheld that fair trial principles triumph even national interests, in the context of deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan, recession trends and economic slowdowns (for example, in Greece) that have lowered the bloc’s bargaining power, EU’s inconsistency in its own internal affairs (for instance, no actions have been taken against Spain over its actions in Catalonia over similar issues of self-determination) and a perception amongst developing countries that human-rights is a Western concept (recently cited by India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah).

Adoption of an intersectional approach

Although the EU speaks collectively on these matters, it is not denied that larger member-states often prevail over the smaller ones at the EP, hence a supranational assessment may not be the best way forward. As of March 2019, 13 member states including Germany, Belgium and France, enjoyed a trade surplus with India, while 20 member states including Netherlands and Spain stood at a deficit. A greater asymmetry of positions could indicate which way the deal ultimately tilts. The latter group would seem to be more willing to hold India to higher standards.

An analysis of the goods traded would be the next step. The EU enjoys a higher export-import ratio over India in goods such as aircrafts and associated equipments for which finding alternate markets would be difficult. Whereas India’s trade in terms of food-products, including sea-food (running into 50,000 crores) have been facing losses over the US halting imports. After the US, the EU would have naturally been the next biggest market, but the inking of the EU-Vietnam FTA indicates that further losses could percolate from the EU.

For a while now, India has been continually adopting a protectionist stance. The government has been contemplating restrictions on imports of electronic goods since it believes that its signing of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement that led to higher imports by reduction of import duties, hurt its domestic consumers. In April 2019, the EU had taken India to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on ICT Goods for imposing ‘unlawful duties’. It has also maintained this stance at the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) over concerns about Chinese goods flooding the market. It seems less likely to compromise over the EU deal now. Apart from this, India has an alternative in the form of an FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) led by its political ally Russia (other countries include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan). Since the bloc lies at a distance, it would be unlikely to invest heavily and India need not be too worried about losses to its domestic players. Moreover, there is greater scope for exchange in technology (India has previously expressed its willingness to provide SEZs to Russia) and the bloc is as large as MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) with whom India has had trade pacts since 2009. While Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Egypt are in the process of negotiating FTAs with EAEU. Vietnam has already entered into an FTA with the bloc and this could be setting a precedent. Finally, India could enter into deal without the added weight of incorporation of human-rights clauses and this makes it more likely to maintain its position on the EU FTA.

However, the EU still holds the bargaining chip because India’s current economic losses and decreasing levels of investment could deter concrete deals at this point.

Legal implications

Cedric Ryngaert, expert in international law, opined that EU’s obligations to ensure its trading partner’s compliance with human-rights standards in context of the Fronte Polisario judgement, were not merely extraterritorial but flowed from its territorial obligations to exercise due-diligence since the agreements were concluded within EU, although its effects were felt on a foreign territory. He argues that even though the EU Courts may not be able to prohibit the execution of agreements, they are still competent to examine whether there has been an ‘error of assessment’ on the part of the Council. There could be similar arguments regarding the application of the passive personality principle (although the principle itself has not gained much traction), since individuals from occupied territories are now residing or are nationals of EU member states, the bloc holds a duty towards them.

Purely academic concerns aside, to prevent backlash on the part of the EU Member States, strict standards of assessment could be confined to ‘serious’ violations as opposed to ‘ordinary violations’. The seriousness could be assessed for example, by identifying whether the category of human rights being violated is peremptory in nature or at least the minimum essential or core obligations. This finds support in the example that even the concept of exercise of universal jurisdiction is limited to certain serious violations and Article 42 of the Draft Articles on Responsibility of International Organizations (DARIO) that prohibits international organisations from recognizing as lawful a situation created by a serious breach of peremptory norms nor render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation. Apart from self-determination and the freedom of religion, the core labour standards (on forced/compulsory labour, association and collective bargaining and child labour) are also part of customary international law.To see how strongly these principles are upheld, notice that even as a part of EU’s Public Procurement policies (See, 2014 Directives) which is supposed to comprise a significant proportion of its GDP (almost 14% of their GDP) and where member states are usually allowed discretion, one exception stood out: where the corporation or its operators have been convicted by a final judgement of child labour or trafficking (Art 57(1)(f) Dir 2014/24/EU).

EU agreements with other industrialised nations have not been completely smooth either. EU opted for consultations (17 December 2018) and follow-ups with South-Korea over non-ratification of four fundamental ILO Conventions and has also referred the matter for arbitration(2 July 2019). It has provided support to Central American countries (Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica) in implementing ILO reforms through their regional offices, adoption of due diligence business plans and formation of tripartite councils (for collective bargaining) while condemning the situation in Nicaragua. In Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, where there were issues over child labour, collective bargaining and association rights, illegal mining and fishing issues, it has set up ‘technical missions’ to identify and provide suggestions (labour networks have been set up, hazardous occupations lists revised in Colombia, financing of labour inspection by EU in these countries, commitments to the endangered species convention). It has provided assistance packages to Georgia and Ukraine subject to them undertaking concrete measures (Georgia has enacted laws on occupational safety and health, while maintaining that Ukraine must address governance issues such as through adoption of anti-money laundering laws).

Conclusion

There are existing bottlenecks in several other countries too, yet, there still exists an agreement. 

The EU is generally not hesitant in enforcing the provisions, but believes in initially resorting to dialogues and bilateral talks, seeks reports from civil society, looks to the implementation of the provisions through follow-ups. Suspension or unilateral cessation of operation of the FTAs are a bit unusual. The human rights clauses are unique to the FTAs executed by the EU. These provisions are not standalone, and the whole reason why they exist in trade agreements is to incentivise the partner states to uphold their commitments.

EU has a large presence at the WTO. One of its agendas has been entering into agreements with WTO members and keeping them plurilateral, open for other WTO members to enter at a later stage. This would eventually lead to anchoring those agreements at the WTO Level itself, even if negotiated outside the organisation. India would stand at a loss if it were to leave the deal. India could also be a prominent partner when it comes to trade in services(as of 2014, the Trade in Services for EU stood at 728 Billion Euros and 60% of the EU investment abroad is related to services). It has also been negotiating the ambitious plurilateral agreement on services wherein it will engage in EU-financed exchanges, training and other capacity-building initiatives, negotiation of mobility related issues for professionals and conditions of entry and residence for nationals of non-member states. Instead of out rightly lobbying for stopping all negotiations over the FTA, showing that the EU has an upper-hand, and overselling the importance of the EU trade deal to India is what I believe will be the best way to ensure that India fulfills its human rights mandate. The Indian civil society to engage with trade confederations so as to push their business interests to facilitate trade deals considering their losses. Finally, EU at its end could be led by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights(the revised Draft for a binding treaty along these lines was formulated in July 2019) to control corporations entering into trade agreements or investing in countries with low human rights track records.

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[1] The proposal to initiate a trade agreement with a non-member state arises from the European Commission (EC).DG Trade is one of the bodies that leads discussions before the EC. There is also the Trade Policy Committee (TPC) (a working group made up of the EU Member States that works alongside the EC). Both are known to adopt a liberal economic approach. However, EP can take the ultimate decision by choosing to not ratify agreements that have already been executed, although it cannot alter them. The EP is believed to espouse political values over commercial interests. To avert such a situation, the TPC has started deliberating with the EP’s Committee on International Trade. Finally, the European External Action Service (EEAS) is motivated to maintain a coherence in External Policies and is known to prefer values over interests. Legal commitments towards human-rights principles is enshrined also as a part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Development Cooperation, Common Commercial Policy, Area Freedom and Justice, the 2012 Strategic Framework and corresponding Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy and the Common Agreement on the use of Political Clauses, 2009. These policy documents, provide that human rights clauses should be included either as a part of the FTA itself, or a political document that precedes the execution of the FTA. The Commission in certain cases also draws up Impact Assessments (before negotiations) and Sustainability Assessments (during the negotiations) to understand the potential impact of trade liberalisation on the HRs situation in the territory and the State’s ability to fulfill their obligations. This has been understood recently, to be a part of the EU’s obligations under Article 21.

Ishita Chakrabarty is a final year law student at Hidayatullah National Law University, India. She is also leading the Special Procedures mechanism at Quill Foundation. She is an international law enthusiast and has previously published her research papers under the Queen Mary Law Journal and University of Pennsylvania Law Journal. Her latest paper on dual-use object targeting is currently under publication before the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics. She has also contributed articles before blogs such as Groningen Journal of International Law blog and Cambridge International Law blog.

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Economy

Synchronicity in Economic Policy amid the Pandemic

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business-economy

Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.Carl Jung

The Covid pandemic has elicited a number of deficiencies in the current global governance framework, most notably its weaknesses in mustering a coordinated response to the global economic downturn. A global economy is not fully “global” if it is devoid of the capability to conduct coordinated and effective responses to a global economic crisis. What may be needed is a more flexible governance structure in the world economy that is capable of exhibiting greater synchronicity in economic policies across countries and regions. Such a governance structure should accord greater weight to regional integration arrangements and their development institutions at the level of key G20 decisions concerning international economic policy coordination.

The need for greater synchronicity in the global economy arises across several trajectories:

· Greater synchronicity in the anti-crisis response across countries and regions – according to the IMF it is a coordinated response that renders economic stimulus more efficacious in countering the global downturn

· Synchronicity in the withdrawal of stimulus across the largest economies – absent such coordination the timing of policy normalization could be postponed with negative implications for macroeconomic stability

· Greater synchronicity in opening borders, lifting lockdowns and other policy measures related to responding to the pandemic: such synchronicity provides more scope for cross-country and cross-regional value-added chains to boost production

· Greater synchronicity in ensuring a recovery in migration and the movement of people across borders.

Of course such greater synchronicity in economic policy should not undermine the autonomy of national economic policy – it is rather about the capability of national and regional economies to exhibit greater coordination during downturns rather than a progression towards a uniform pattern of economic policy across countries. Synchronicity is not only about policy coordination per se, but also about creating the infrastructure that facilitates such joint actions. This includes the conclusion of digital accords/agreements that raise significantly the potential for economic policy coordination. Another area is the development of physical infrastructure, most notably in the transportation sphere. Such measures serve to improve regional and inter-regional connectivity and provide a firmer foundation for regional economic integration.

The paradox in which the world economy finds itself is that even as the current crisis is leading to fragmentation and isolationism there is a greater need for more policy coordination and synchronicity to overcome the economic downturn. This need for synchronicity may well increase in the future given the widening array of global risks such as risks to cyber-security as well as energy security and climate change. There is also the risk of the depletion of reserves to counter the Covid crisis that has been accompanied by a rise in debt levels across developed and developing economies. Also, the speed of the propagation of crisis impulses (that effectively increases with technological advances and globalization) is not matched by the capability of economic policy coordination and efficiency of anti-crisis policies.

There may be several modes of advancing greater synchronicity across borders in international relations. One possible option is a major superpower using its clout in a largely unipolar setting to facilitate greater policy coordination. Another possibility is for such coordination to be supported by global international institutions such as the UN, the WTO, Bretton Woods institutions, etc. Other options include coordination across the multiplicity of all countries of the global economy as well as across regional integration arrangements and institutions.

Attaining greater synchronicity across countries will necessitate changes in the global governance framework, which currently is characterized by weak multilateral institutions at the top level and a fragmented framework of governance at the level of countries. What may be needed is a greater scope accorded to regional integration arrangements that may facilitate greater coordination of synchronicity at the regional level as well as across regions. The advantage of providing greater weight to the regional institutions in dealing with global economic downturns emanates from their greater efficiency in coordinating an anti-crisis response at the regional level via investment/infrastructure projects as well as macroeconomic policy coordination. Regional development institutions also have a comparative advantage in leveraging regional interdependencies to promote economic recovery.

In conclusion, the global economy has arguably become more fragmented as a result of the Covid pandemic. The multiplicity of country models of dealing with the pandemic, the “vaccine competition”, the breaking up of global value chains and their nationalization and regionalization all point in the direction of greater localization and self-sufficiency. At the same time there is a need from greater synchronicity across countries particularly in the context of the current pandemic crisis. Regional integration arrangements and institutions could serve to facilitate such coordination in economic policy within and across the major regions of the world economy.

From our partner RIAC

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Economy

A New Strategy for Ukraine

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Authors: Anna Bjerde and Novoye Vremia

Four years ago, the World Bank prepared a multi-year strategy to support Ukraine’s development goals. This was a period of recovery from the economic crisis of 2014-2015, when GDP declined by a cumulative 16 percentage points, the banking sector collapsed, and poverty and other measures of insecurity spiked. Indeed, we noted at the time that Ukraine was at a turning point.

Four years later, despite daunting internal and external challenges, including an ongoing pandemic, Ukraine is a stronger country. It has proved more resilient to unpredictable challenges and is better positioned to achieve its long-term development vision. This increased capacity is first and foremost the result of the determination of the Ukrainian people.

The World Bank is proud to have joined the international community in supporting Ukraine during this period. I am here in Kyiv this week to launch a new program of assistance. In doing this, we look back to what worked and how to apply those lessons going forward. In Ukraine—as in many countries—the chief lesson is that development assistance is most effective when it supports policies and projects which the government and citizens really want.

This doesn’t mean only easy or even non-controversial measures; rather, it means we engage closely with government authorities, business, local leaders, and civil society to understand where policy reforms may be most effective in removing obstacles to growth and human development and where specific projects can be most successful in delivering social services, particularly to the poorest.

Looking back over the past four years in Ukraine, a few examples stand out. First, agricultural land reform. For the past two decades, Ukraine was one of the few countries in the world where farmers were not free to sell their land.

The prohibition on allowing farmers to leverage their most valuable asset contributed to underinvestment in one of Ukraine’s most important sources of growth, hurt individual landowners, led to high levels of rural unemployment and poverty, and undermined the country’s long-term competitiveness.

The determination by the President and the actions by the government to open the market on July 1 required courage. This was not an easy decision. Powerful and well-connected interests benefited from the status quo; but it was the right one for Ukrainian citizens.

A second area where we have been closely involved is governance, both with respect to public institutions and the rule of law, as well as the corporate governance of state-owned banks and enterprises. Poll after poll in Ukraine going back more than a decade revealed that strengthening public institutions and creating a level playing field for business was a top priority.

World Bank technical assistance and policy financing have supported measures to restore liability for illicit enrichment of public officials, to strengthen existing anticorruption agencies such as NABU and NACP, and to create new institutions, including the independent High-Anticorruption Court.

We are also working with government to ensure the integrity of state-owned enterprises. Our support to the government’s unbundling of Naftogaz is a good example; assistance in establishing supervisory boards in state-owned banks is another. We hope our early dialogue on modernizing the operations of Ukrzaliznytsia will be equally beneficial.

As we begin preparation of a new strategy, the issues which have guided our ongoing work—strengthening markets, stabilizing Ukraine’s fiscal and financial accounts; and providing inclusive social services more efficiently—remain as pressing today as they were in 2017. Indeed, the progress which has been achieved needs to continue to be supported as they frequently come under assault from powerful interests.

At the same time, recent years have highlighted emerging challenges where we hope to deepen and expand our engagement. First, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of our long partnership in health reform and strengthening social protection programs.

The changes to the provision of health care in Ukraine over recent years has helped mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and will continue to make Ukrainians healthier. Government efforts to better target social spending to the poor has also made a difference. We look forward to continuing our support in both areas, including over the near term through further support to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Looking ahead, the challenge confronting us all is climate change. Here again, our dialogue with the government has positioned us to help, including to achieve Ukraine’s ambitious commitment to reduce carbon emissions. During President Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington in early September we discussed operations to strengthen the electricity sector; a program to transition from coal power to renewables; municipal energy efficiency investments; and how to tap into Ukraine’s unique capacity to produce and store hydrogen energy. This is a bold agenda, but one that can be realized.

I have been gratified by my visit to Kyiv to see first-hand what has been achieved in recent years. I look forward to our partnership with Ukraine to help realize this courageous vision of the future.

Originally published in Ukrainian language in Novoye Vremia, via World Bank

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Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?

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Authors: Divyanshu Jindal and Mahek Bhanu Marwaha*

The USD (United States Dollar) has been the world’s dominant currency since the conclusion of the second world war. Dollar has also been the most sought reserve currency for decades, which means it is held by central banks across the globe in significant quantities. Dollar is also primarily used in cross-border transactions by nations and businesses. Without a doubt, US dollar’s dominance is a major reason for the US’ influence over public and private entities operating around the world. This unique position not only makes US the leader in the financial and monetary system, but also provides incomparable leverage when it comes to coercive ability to shape decisions taken by governments, businesses, and institutions.

However, this dynamic is undergoing gradual and visible changes with the emergence of China, slowdown in the US economy, European Union’s independent policy assertion, Russia-US detachment, and increasing voices from across the world to create a polycentric world and financial system in which hegemonic capacities can be muted. The world is witnessing de-dollarisation attempts and ambitions, as well as the rise of digital or cryptocurrencies at an increasing pace today.

With Russia, China and EU leading the way in the process of de-dollarisation, it needs to be argued whether India, currently among the most dollarized countries (in invoicing), will take cue from the global trends and push towards de-dollarisation as well.

Why de-dollarisation?

The dominant role of dollar in the global economy provides US disproportionate amount of influence over other economies. As international trade needs a payment and financial system to take place, any nation in position to dictate the terms and policies over these systems can create disturbances in trade between other players in the system. This is how imposition of sanctions work in theory.  

The US has for long used imposition of sanctions as a tool to achieve foreign policy and goals, which entails restricting access to US-led services in payment and financial transaction processing domains.

In recent years, several nations have started opposing the unilateral decisions taken by the US, a trend which accelerated under the former president Donald Trump’s tenure. He withdrew US from the JCPOA deal between Iran and US, aimed at Iran’s compliance with nuclear discipline and non-proliferation. Albeit US withdrawal, other signatories like EU, Russia, and China expressed discontent towards the unilateral stance by the US and stayed committed towards the deal and have desired for continued engagements with Iran in trade and aid.

Similarly, the sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the Crimean conflict in 2014 did not find the reverberations among allies to the extent that US had wanted. While EU members had switched to INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) which acts as a special-purpose vehicle to facilitate non-USD trade with Iran to avoid US sanctions, EU nations like Germany continue to have deep trade ties with Russia, and  EU remains the largest investor as well the biggest trade partner for Russia, with trade taking place in euros, instead of dollars.

Further, despite the close US-EU relations, EU has started its own de-dollarization push. This became more explicit when earlier this year, EU announced plans to prioritize the euro as an international and reserved currency, in direct competition with dollar.

Trajectories of Russia, China, and EU’s de-dollarisation push

Russia has emerged as the nation with the most vigorous policies oriented towards de-dollarization. In 2019, the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had invited Russia’s partners to cooperate towards a mechanism for switching to use of national currencies when it comes to transactions between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It must be noted that in Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which functions as a Russian-led trade bloc, more than 70 percent of the settlements are happening in national currencies. Further, in recent years, Russia has also switched to settlements in national currencies with India (for arms contracts) and the two traditionally strong defence partners are aiming at exploring technology as means for payment in national currencies.

Russia’s push to detach itself from the US currency can also be seen in the transforming nature of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves where Russia for the first time had more gold reserves than dollars according to the 2018 data (22 percent dollars, 23 percent gold, 33 percent Euros, 12 percent Yuan). As per the statement by Russian Finance Minister in 2021, Russia aims to hold 40 percent euro, 30 percent yuan, 20 percent gold and 5 percent each of Japanese yen and British pound. In comparison, China holds a significant amount of dollar denominated assets as forex reserves (50 to 60 percent) and has the US as its top export market with which trade takes place mostly in US dollars. Moreover, Russia has also led the push by creating its own financial messaging system- SPFS (The System for Transfer of Financial Messages) and a new national electronic payment system – Mir, which has witnessed an exponential rise in its use.

While China-Russia trade significantly depends on euros instead of  their own national currencies (even though use of national currencies is slowly rising), instead of pushing the Chinese national currency Renminbi (RMB), Beijing is aiming towards establishing itself as the first nation to issue a sovereign digital currency, which would help China to engage in cross border payments without depending on the US financial systems. Thus, for China, digital currency seems to be the route towards countering the dollar dominance as well as to increase its own clout by leading the way for an alternate global financial system operating in digital currencies. It needs to be noted here that EU has succeeded in internationalizing the euro and this can be seen in the fact that EU-Russia trade as well as Russia-China trade occurs predominately in euros now.

Will India follow suit?

Indian economy’s dynamic with dollar is different than other major economies in the world today. Unlike China or Russia (or EU and Japan), which hold dollars in significant amounts, India’s reserve is not resulted by an export surplus. While others accumulate dollars from their earnings of trade surplus, India maintains a large forex reserve even though India imports less than it exports. In India’s case, the dollar reserves come through infusion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), which reflects the confidence of foreign investors in India’s growth prospects. However, accumulation of dollar reserves through this route (which helps in offsetting the current deficit faced in trade), India remains vulnerable to policy changes by other nations’ monetary policies which are beyond India’s own control. For instance, it has been often highlighted that a tightening of the US monetary policy leads to capital outflows (capital flight) from India, thus impacting India adversely.

New Dehi has resisted a de-dollarization push for long. Back in 2009, when Russia and China had started the push via BRIC mechanism (Brazil, Russia, India, China grouping), it was argued that New Delhi would not like to upset Washington, especially after the historic US-India civil nuclear agreement was signed just a year before in 2008 -for full civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations.

Further, currency convertibility is an important part of global commerce as it opens trade with other countries and allows a government to pay for goods and services in a currency that may not be the buyer’s own. Non-convertible currency creates difficulties for participating in international market as the transactions take longer routes for processing (which in case of dollar transactions, is controlled by US systems).

 Just like Chinese renminbi, Indian rupee is also not yet fully convertible at the exchange markets. While this means that India can control its burden of foreign debt, and inflow of capital for investment purposes in its economy, it also means an uneasy access to capital, less liquidity in financial market, and less business opportunities.

It can be argued that just like the case of China and Russia, India can also look towards having a digital currency in the near future, and some signs for this are already visible. India can also look towards having an increased share of euros and gold in its foreign exchange reserves, a method currently being used by both China and Russia.  

Conclusion

An increasing number of voices are today pointing towards the arrival of the Asian age (or century). With China now being the leading economic power in the world, US economy on a slowdown, and emergence of an increasing polycentric structure in world economy, the dominance of dollar is bound to witness a shake-up. In order for global systems to remain in sync with the transforming economic order, structural changes like control over leading economic organisations (like IMF and World Bank) will become increasingly desirable.

With an increasing number of nations now looking towards digital currencies and considering a change in the mix of their foreign exchange reserves, a general trend is now visible even if it would not mean an end to dollar’s dominance in the immediate future. As the oil and gas trade in international markets also start shifting from dollar, geopolitical balance of power is expected to witness a shift after decades of US dominance.

Major geopolitical players like China, Russia and EU have already started their journey to counter the dominance of dollar, and the strings of US influence on political decisions that come with it. According to Chinese media, Afghanistan’s reconstruction after US-withdrawal can also accelerate the global de-dollarization push as nations like Saudi Arabia might look for establishing funds for assisting Afghanistan in non-dollar currencies. So, conflict areas highlight another avenue where de-dollarization push will find a testing arena in coming times.

India has several options for initiating its de-dollarization process. Starting from Russia-India transactions, trade with Iran, EAEU, BRICS and SCO members in national or digital currencies can also become a reality in near future. Considering India’s present dollar dependence, whether US sees India’s move towards de-dollarisation as a direct challenge to US-India relations, or accepts it as a shift in the global realities, has to be seen.  

*Mahek Bhanu Marwaha is a master’s student in Diplomacy, Law and Business program at the OP Jindal Global University, India. Her research interests revolve around Indian and Chinese foreign policies and trade relations.

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