LEGISLATION IN BUDGET SESSION TO PROTECT DOMESTIC INDUSTRY & AGRICULTURE AGAINST SURGE IN IMPORTS: MARAN
Date : 15 Feb 2001
Location : New Delhi
Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, has said that the government would be bringing a suitable legislation in the ensuing session of the Parliament to safeguard the interests of the indigenous sectors including industry and agriculture for providing appropriate measures to meet the problems arising out of import surges. Presiding over the meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry here today, Shri Maran said that a meeting with the Chief Secretaries and concerned officials of the state governments would shortly be held for discussing steps and strategies that had been taken or are being contemplated to deal with the situation arising out of the removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs). "This interactive process, I firmly believe, will enrich our decision making process and enable adoption of an effective collective approach to meet the challenges", he said. Shri Maran also said that he had already directed for designating a Nodal Officer in the Department of Commerce to facilitate continuous interaction between the States and the Union on WTO and export-related matters. The Members of the Parliament who attended the meeting included Dr. Biplab Dasgupta; Dr. Mahesh Chandra Sharma; Shri P.C. Thomas; Shri A.D.K. Jayaseelan; Shri Bali Ram Kashyap; Shri Swadesh Chakraborty; Shri B. Venkateswarlu; Shri Shivaji Kamble; Shri Kirti Azad; Shri Hipei and Begum Noor Bano. Shri Prabir Sengupta, Commerce Secretary; Shri P. G. Mankad, Secretary (IPP); Shri Nripendra Misra, Special Secretary and Shri A.K. Kundra, Chairman, Tariff Commission, were also present during the meeting along with other senior officials of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
Members across party lines expressed concern over the plight of farmers and urged the government to take all possible steps to protect farmers' interests in the aftermath of the removal of QRs. Shri Maran assured that the interests of farmers and domestic industry including those of the plantation sector would be fully safeguarded and "we will not allow the Indian market to be dumped with imported goods". While underlining the inevitability of the phase-out of QRs and enhancing competitiveness, the Minister agreed with the Members on the need for constant vigilance. He pointed out that there were enough weapons to safeguard our domestic interests against surge in imports such as through tariff protection within bound levels and anti-dumping action. He also clarified that anti-dumping actions were not targetted against any particular country. He agreed with a view expressed by a member that there was need to take a long-term view of the likely impact of phase-out of QRs, even though there might not be any immediate surge. Members urged the government to promote opportunities for agro exports from India including plantation items like natural rubber which would ensure remunerative return to the farmers. In this context, Shri Maran informed that the Russian Federation had recently agreed to purchase 100 million kgs. of tea from India during the calendar year 2001.
Stating that he strongly felt that a more active involvement of the States was essential for sustaining a high rate of export growth, Shri Maran said that under an important new initiative, the Commerce Ministry has requested the Ministry of Finance to make a sizeable allocation in the forthcoming Budget for creation of export-related infrastructure by the States. Referring to the robust export growth of more than 20 per cent in dollar terms for the period April to December 2000, the Minister said that this growth in the current year was in no small measures due to the policy initiatives announced in the Exim Policy 2000. The Exim Policy, he said, had also proposed medium term measures including the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and the involvement of State governments in the export efforts. Both these measures had started taking concrete shape with the launch of the SEZ at Nanguneri in Tamil Nadu, he said. The SEZ at Positra in Gujarat was also at a fairly advanced stage and each of these SEZs would involve a massive infrastructure investment of US $ 2 billion, he added. In several states, such as Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too, steps like identifying land and conduction techno-economic studies had already been initiated, Shri Maran informed the Members. Inviting suggestions from the Members, the Minister said that the Meeting was extremely important as it was being held on the eve of the Budget session and announcement of the Exim Policy for 2001-2002.
Speaking on the FDI (foreign direct investment) position in the country, Shri Maran said that the government had been encouraging FDI to supplement domestic and technology upgradation. FDI was currently permitted in all sectors except for a small negative list and liberalisation of FDI policies had been a continuous process and was being undertaken based on felt need and investor-perceptions, he said. The Minister also assured the Members that the sectoral composition of the FDI Approvals was consistent with the priorities of the country. Pointing out to the fact that people had been mentioning about the low level of realisation of FDI, the Minister said that there had been a significant step up in the inflow approval ratio. "Our current realisation rate of around 52 per cent is noteworthy", he said. The institutional mechanism of the Foreign Investment Implementation Agency (FIIA) was now bearing fruit, he added.
The Minister stated that simplicity and transparency had been the guiding principles in FDI and Exim Policy and in this context he had aimed at complete simplification of procedures, computerisation of DGFT offices and electronic filing of applications in the last Exim Policy. "I am very glad to report that we have made nearly 100% progress in this regard", he said. The physical interface between the exporters and the DGFT offices had almost completely being eliminated and it was hoped that with the computerisation with the Customs Officers during the current calendar year, the transaction cost of exporting goods and services from the country would come down substantially, said Shri Maran.