“We are establishing logistic hubs nearer the sea ports, as many of them, I may not be able to give a final picture, I think this would address immediate concerns that would be sustainable in the long term,” said Ms Sitharaman while inaugurating an Assocham conference on ‘Strategies for double digit growth in exports.’
Highlighting the priority of the government to cut down on logistic challenges, she said that the Centre was trying to make electronic data interchanges at major ports that are completely under the control of Central Government.
“In 36 landing areas, the regional authorities representing the DGFT (Director General of Foreign Trade) office have just initiated a two-day intensive workshop with them to see how best to reach out to exporters, how best to engage with exporters and 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 that her ministry was engaging with railways to cut down costs.
She also informed that the review of Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) is 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 shall not review the policy unless we reach the mid-term, the review has commenced. We are doing the FTP review.”
Conceding that taxation was a key issue hampering exports’ growth, Ms Sitharaman said, “You cannot be paying tax over tax and exporters cannot be taxed for exporting, we recognize that difficulty and I know GST (Goods and Services Tax) alone cannot give us the solution, in fact the 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.”
Emphasizing 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 that 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 the sustainable actions that we need to take in order to bring systemic reforms and we are at it,” said Ms Sitharaman.
She said that the Commerce Ministry was also working on sorting out currency related issues being 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 but I found yesterday, 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 Ms Sitharaman.
She also informed about raising the issue of India’s information technology (IT) 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, she said that 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 and more as that would also be influencing its policy making.