EXPORT SURGE IN 2000 ENSURES SURPASSING OF TARGET
Date : 26 Dec 2000
Location : New Delhi
The year 2000 witnessed a surge in India's exports with sustained double-digit growth -- the highest recorded in over a decade -- justifying the optimism expressed by Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, at the Economic Editors' Conference held in October 2000 when he had indicated that the export target of 18 per cent growth in dollar terms set for the year 2000-2001 would be exceeded going by the export trends during the year 2000. As per the latest available data, India's exports during April-October 2000 were valued at U $ 25013.99 million (i.e. $ 25 billion) registering a growth of 20.51 per cent over the level of US $ 20757.15 million (i.e. $ 20 billion) achieved during the corresponding period of 1999. In rupee terms, India's exports during April-October 2000 are up by 25.59 per cent. High growth has been witnessed in exports of many items such as engineering goods, chemicals & related products, ores & minerals, leather & leather manufactures, gems & jewellery, marine products, oil meals, textiles and electronic goods. Focussed strategy such as the "Focus: LAC" programme resulted in over 40 per cent growth in India's exports to the Latin American region. Further, to improve upon this rate of growth so as to achieve a quantum jump, the government initiated steps during the year to work out a medium term export strategy (2000-2005) in consultation with Export Promotion Councils and Commodity Boards. In the drive towards deeper diversification and greater export dynamism, the emphasis has been on investments and technology in export production so as to ensure that the country has the required exportable surplus of quality products for the world markets. In a major policy initiative, the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) was announced by Shri Maran in the Export & Import (Exim) Policy for the year 2000 with a view to providing a world class, internationally competitive and hassle free environment for exports. Notifications were issued to provide a customs framework free of control. Together with FDI policy initiatives for SEZs, it is expected that these zones will have the potential to act as "magnets" for investments for export production from home and abroad. As a first step, four existing Export Processing Zones (EPZs) -- at Kandla, Santa Cruz, Cochin and Surat -- were converted into SEZs with effect from 1 November, 2000. In principal clearances have been given to the establishment of new SEZs at Positra (Gujarat), Nangunery (Tamil Nadu), Kakinada-Vizag (Andhra Pradesh), Paradip (Orissa), Kulpi (West Bengal) and Bhadohi (Uttar Pradesh). Efforts were continuously made during the year to enable the exporting community not only to reduce their transaction cost but also to save their time for concentrating on quality upgradation and marketing. A major computerisation programme was launched in the offices of DGFT and all the Port Offices of the DGFT are to be computerised by 31 December, 2000. The facility of electronic filing of applications has been made available in all these offices. E-governance and EDI initiatives in this area are fast making repeated trips to the government offices in the foreign trade area a thing of the past. A scheme was evolved for involving the state governments in exports by providing financial assistance proportionate to their export efforts. An allocation of Rs.250 crore was provided during the year for this purpose. An Export Development Fund as proposed in the action plan of the Prime Minister for the North Eastern Region was set up with an initial corpus of Rs.5 crore, besides a series of measures currently underway for the development of trade and exports for the North Eastern Region for which assistance is being provided. An export strategy has also been drawn up for the State of Jammu & Kashmir. On the import front, the government took major initiatives to protect the interests of the domestic industry. An Inter-Ministerial Group under the chairmanship of Commerce Secretary was constituted on 28/7/2000 to assess the likely impact of the removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs) and to suggest suitable corrective measures. Others measures recently taken by the government include: (i) Increase in import duties on a number of items -- for example, the raising of duty on arecanut from 35% to 100%, on poultry products from 35% to 100%, on wheat from 0% to 50%, on skimmed milk powder from 0% to 60%, on apple from 35% to 50%, and on rice from 0% to 80%; (ii) Initiation of suo-moto anti-dumping investigations in respect of import of battery cells, battery operated toys and sports shoes; (iii) Subjecting import of all packaged commodities to compliance of all the conditions of the Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodity) Order, 1977, as applicable on domestic producers; and (iv) Subjecting import of 131 products to compliance of the mandatory Indian quality standards as applicable to domestic goods. For compliance of this requirement all manufacturers/ exporters of these products to India are required to register themselves with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The list of 131 products included various food preservatives and additives, milk powder, infant milk food, certain kinds of cement, household and similar electrical appliances, gas cylinders and multipurpose dry batteries. On the multilateral trade front, mandated negotiations in respect of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) commenced from 1 January, 2000. In order to outline strategies for these negotiations, the Ministry has held interactive meetings with various stakeholders including major industry associations, research institutes, concerned administrative ministries and departments of Government of India and professional associations in the area of services, while in respect of agriculture, interactive meetings were held with major industry associations, besides which the Ministry also participated in meetings organised by the Ministry of Agriculture with State governments, farmers' representatives, political parties and voluntary organisations. India has been participating effectively in these ongoing negotiations in the WTO with a view to protecting our national interests. India's main concern in the services negotiations is to have commitments from the developed countries regarding movement of natural persons, especially professionals (under the Mode-4). In agriculture, India's priorities in the negotiations are to get increased market access in the developed country markets by making them remove their trade distorting subsidies etc; and to ensure food security by making sure that the livelihood of farmers is not adversely affected due to imports. In another major initiative, negotiations for upward revision of tariff bindings under Article XXVIII of GATT 1994 were completed in respect of certain agricultural products which were bound during the previous rounds of GATT negotiations at zero or low levels of tariffs. Upward revision on these tariff bindings for such agro products under Article XXVIII was done with a view to giving the necessary protection to domestic agriculture and agro-industry. Within these bound tariff levels, there is considerable flexibility for imposing appropriate tariffs on import of agricultural commodities for protecting the interests of the farmers.