- Importers say Customs has stopped clearing goods originating from China since June 22
- 100% examination of all consignments of goods of Chinese origin has begun
- Reason cited is not the India-China border tensions, but recurrence of COVID-19 cases in China
- Commerce and Industry ministry made it mandatory for sellers to provide 'country of origin' on Government e-Marketplace
While there is no confirmation over any such official directive, industry representatives say the message is clear - don't deliver goods originating from China until further orders. The reason cited is apparently not India-China border tensions and its aftermath, but the recurrence of COVID-19 cases in China.
Corroborating the move, Delhi-based Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Devive Industry and joint managing director of Hindustan Syringes, said that 100 per cent examination of all consignments of goods of Chinese origin has begun. "We are informed, all consignments of China origin are being detained at ports for 100 percent examination. Action began at midnight of last night", Nath said.
"The cargo will not be stopped, but will be re-examined. Even the goods that have been given out of charge (faster clearance approval) will be re-examined," a Chennai-based industry source said.
BusinessToday.In has sought a clarification from the Finance Ministry on the alleged move to delay clearance of goods originating from China. A response is awaited.
It is being said that consignments may have been held up owing to risk assessment or inputs from intelligence agencies. Customs have also reportedly issued an internal order to port, airport and freight officials to hold all consignments from China across the country. This could result in a major delay in clearance due to physical examination.
Currently, only 30 per cent of total imports are examined physically, which includes verifying the description and checking if goods are valued correctly or if these are eligible for exemption. Doing 100 per cent physical examination may not only delay the process but will put a lot of strain on officials battling staff crunch amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, the current decision has baffled many industries, especially those dealing with Chinese telecom equipment as they are fearing big delay in clearance. Many of these parts are also needed to export items out of India. Right now, around 500 bills originating from China are cleared at the Chennai port alone, which is a key point for importing telecom and auto products from China. Stakeholders believe if the authorities keep on holding consignments from China, it could choke ports and result in a major delay in delivery.
India imported $ 70 billion worth of goods from mainland China in 2018-19, nearly 14 percent of the country's overall goods import worth $ 514 billion that year. The key items include electrical machinery and equipment, nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, organic chemcials, plastic items and fertilizers. Of late there has been an attempt by the government to identify essential products that are heavily dependent on imports and build capabilities for self relience in those specific manufacturing sectors. Schemes to promote local manufacturing of electronics goods and pharmaceutical raw materials have already been announced. The list of non-essential items, the import of which can be discouraged with immediately is also known to be in the making.
Further the Commerce And Industry Ministry made it mandatory for sellers to provide and update information about country of origin on Government e-Marketplace (GeM) to promote Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat today. "It's notable that under Rule 153(3) of General Financial Rules of Government of India, departments of the government are mandated to purchase only Make in India products. These rules were framed in 2017. Further the purchases through GeM by government users have been authorised and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017. However, due to the fact that sellers don't mention the country of origin on the marketplace, the rules were not fully complied with, defeating the very purpose for which GFR, 2017. With new rule coming in, it will further the promotion of make in India," Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch says.
Any delay in clearances of Chinese goods and rejection of goods of foreign orign from GeM will only be seen as India's anti-China move on the economic and trade front.