Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, Piyush Goyal has exhorted the industry to shed fears towards free trade agreements (FTAs) and engage the world with confidence. Terming all imports to be not necessarily bad, he wanted India to categorise imports as desirable and undesirable and allow imports that help the nation serve its customers better.
The minister's positive signal towards FTAs comes at a time when representatives of 16 countries that are negotiating a mega trade deal - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - are planning to meet in Delhi on September 14 and 15.
Speaking at the second meeting of the Board of Trade in New Delhi today, Goyal said the country is ready to take bold decisions to enhance its presence in international trade. "We have a choice. We can either become despondent or utilise a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expend our (global trade) footprint," the minister said.
According to Goyal, India's telecom revolution would have been much slower had the country not engaged with the rest of the world (by way of import of telecommunication devices). In order to boost India's exports, the government is planning to launch a vibrant programme to make available foreign exchange credit at sub 4-per cent interest rate to exporters, especially small and medium scale enterprises, he said. "We are finalising our industrial policy and foreign trade policy. We are working with finance ministry to make industry policy attractive enough for foreign investments," the minister said.
Acknowledging that there has not been much growth in exports this year, Goyal said India has a huge potential for exports due to the trade dispute between US and China, which has provided a window of opportunity to Indian manufacturers for taking up exports of products to US or China where the higher tariffs have been imposed on imports from the other country.
The minister also asked exporters to tap into the 30 million Indian diaspora to promote export of Indian goods from every part of the country. Each district of India has the potential equal to that of a country with its own distinct handicraft and unique specialties such as saris, perfumes, sweets and utensils. There is a need for transforming each district of India into an export hub, the minister added. "Let's forge a model of competitive federalism. The ministry is willing to engage (with every stakeholder) to find a solution. We are not going to be deterred by domestic issues," he pointed out.
The inaugural session also saw the release of the LEADS Index - 2019, a ranking of logistics competitiveness among states. The top ranking state in the logistics sector is Gujarat followed by Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. Among the hilly Eastern States Tripura is the top performer and among Union Territories (UTs) Chandigarh was selected as the best performing UT.
Ministers of State for Commerce and Industry, Hardeep Singh Puri and Som Parkash, CEO NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant, Commerce Secretary, Anup Wadhawan, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Secretary, Guruprasad Mohapatra and Director General of Foreign Trade, Alok Vardhan Chaturvedi were also part of the inaugural session.