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Goodbye passport issues, long queues, as India proposes visa-free travel in 15 nations

Posted on September 28, 2015
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NEW DELHI: India aims to propose a system that will allow visa-free, short business trips to 15 other countries under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free-trade agreement as part of efforts to boost regional commercial ties.

The Department of Commerce plans to pitch the idea to RCEP members and has sought home ministry approval for the plan.

The business travel card is modelled on that of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ( Apec), said a commerce department official. “We have discussed this idea with the ministry of home affairs and they don’t seem to have much of a problem with it.”

RCEP is a 16-country grouping that includes the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nation Asean members and their trading partners— India, South Korea, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

The card will help bonafide business travellers avoid visa documentation and long queues at passport control.

“The card will be valid for a short period of time,” said the official cited above. “We plan to get business travelers vetted by established trade organisations like the Federation of Indian Exports Organizations and industry chambers like Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry).”

The 16-member grouping is working on initial proposals to be made public at its next meeting on October 12-16 in Busan, South Korea.

The partnership agreement covers goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition and is scheduled to be finalised this year, a deadline the commerce department is not sure of meeting. The traveller card suggestion will serve to sweeten the terms of the RCEP deal, which has a three-tier structure on the goods side, according to experts.

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