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The sobering fact that India does not rank high in the Global Illicit Trade Environment Index (GITEI), an annual study brought out by The Economist Intelligence Unit and needs to take corrective action to bring down the risks of illicit trade raise troubling concerns for policymakers. According to the index based on four parameters — Government policy; supply and demand; customs environment and transparency and trade — India ranks 49 globally and nine, in the Asia Pacific-rankings which we can most certainly improve.

In the context of the growing menace of illicit trade worldwide, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates the global market of illicit trade to be about $3 trillion by 2022. It has been pointed out by the WEF that while everybody does express concern, the response to this problem has been disorganised and leaves a lot to be desired.

The need of the hour today, as brought out at the sixth edition of MASCRADE (Movement Against Smuggled and Counterfeit Trade), conducted under the aegis of FICCI’s Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy (CASCADE), is to proactively and conscientiously address the many issues exacerbating the state of the global problem of illicit trade and understand its visible outcome and measurable impacts. There is also an immediate need for harnessing the potential of multilateralism through inter-governmental actions and of effective monitoring and inspection of Free Trade Zones (FTZs) to ensure legitimate trade flows so that FTZs do not become “hotspots”’ for illicit trade and organised crime.

Countering the beast of illicit trade not only requires an understanding of and cooperation between institutions globally but also the designing of effective global strategies and improving the regulatory framework. Unfortunately, no country can claim to have eliminated the problem. Everybody has had varying degrees of success and all countries have paid a price. Trade in smuggling, contraband, counterfeit and pirated goods has risen steadily in the last few years and now stands at 3.3 per cent of global business. Hence, its existence and operation are broad in scope and large in value, impacting not only the global economy, causing losses to the industry, government and society but also adversely affecting the health and safety of consumers. Additionally, it is facilitating an underground economy and organised crime. Tragically, illicit operators display greater cooperation between each other across nations than what governmental institutions do, both within a country and across borders. It is imperative for countries to share experiences in order to understand the global dimensions of the illicit trade challenge so that a possible framework may be set up to tackle it. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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