The government is establishing logistic hubs near sea ports with private sector participation to relieve the issue of receiving stocks on the airport, seaport and movement of goods inland, Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at an ASSOCHAM conference on 'Strategies for Double Digit Growth' in New Delhi on Friday. This , the minister noted, would address immediate concerns and would be sustainable in the long term.
The minister also spoke about having raised the issue of trade imbalance with China, and said she found the Asian giant "very forthcoming".
Highlighting the efforts of the government to cut down on logistic challenges, she said the Centre has been trying to make electronic data interchanges at major ports that are completely under the control of Centre. “In 36 landing areas, the regional authorities representing the DGFT (Director General of Foreign Trade) office have just initiated a two-day intensive workshop to see how best to reach out to exporters...and engage with them. CBEC (Central Board of Excise and Customs) is also part of this exercise,” said the minister.
On the issue of 24x7 presence of DGFT and Customs authorities she said, “We shall ensure that there shall not be a day wasted for import or export for some reason when there is a need for an authority to come in to certify or to question or to give clarification. For want of the presence of officers, trade shall not suffer, we shall attend to it.”.
Highlighting that a complete, comprehensive picture is being handled on the logistics front, she said her ministry was engaging with railways to cut down costs. She also informed that the review of Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) was underway. “As of 2015, when FTP was brought out, I remember making a clear statement—so that there is a sense of stability in the minds of exporters—that I would not review the policy unless we reach the mid-term...We are doing the FTP review”.
Conceding that taxation was a key issue hampering the growth of the export sector, she said, “You cannot be paying tax over tax and exporters cannot be taxed for exporting. We recognise that difficulty and I know GST (Goods and Services Tax) alone cannot give us the solution. In fact, GST would raise the industry’s ambition saying why taxation cannot be simplified and subsume many of tax into GST so that we handle only one.”
Emphasising that simplification of taxation was the government’s top agenda, she said, “We are trying to simplify. Since it involves many states, we are also making sure that we take them on board”. On ease of doing business, she said government was identifying more and more hurdles each year without which exporters, manufacturers would be better off. “We are working on it, it is something which is not going to be that easily brought to a closure. These are long term sustained efforts, which are not the glamorous side of big ticket reforms but sustainable actions that we need to take in order to bring systemic reforms and we are at it”.
She said the Commerce Ministry was also working on sorting out currency related issues faced by exporters. “We are not leaving any one area. We are constantly in search of newer markets so that our exporters can benefit. I know the risks involved in some of the countries; these are issues we are working out”.
On the issue of trade imbalance with China, the minister said, “Yesterday I have raised this issue with Chinese minister and not for the first time, we have had this dialogue since 2014...I found the minister was very forthcoming”.
“We have highlighted that the imbalance is not because of our industry’s lack of competitiveness, they are competitive enough but access is not being made available to us,” said Sitharaman. She also spoke about raising the issue of India’s information technology sector facing experience related issues in every region. “You enter a country and not each region and that has been held against us, so we have highlighted the point. We have highlighted the fact that they could give us some pilot projects through which we can prove our capability.”
However, the minister said more time cannot be wasted. “We have waited for two years, even after this new government has come in, China has been requested that they have to be a lot more open to receive Indian institutions which go there to do business".
She said that pharmaceuticals is one of the important areas, where China wants more services to be available. “They want our drugs but unfortunately many of the permissions, certifications are not happening as quickly as they should.”
The Union minister also invited the industry to use the dashboard of the Commerce Ministry for export and import related data more as that would also be influencing its policy making.