A week after slamming domestic business powerhouses, including the Tata Group, for “overlooking national interests”, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal yesterday said a target of $400 billion for merchandise export has been set for the financial year 2021-22. Addressing a meeting of the Export Promotion Councils, the Commodity Boards and Authorities, and other stakeholders in Mumbai, Goyal threw down the economic gauntlet, saying: “Act immediately to rise to the ambitious challenge of $400 billion export target. We need to maintain the export momentum for the next eight months, with $34 billion exports per month, to achieve this target.”
Last week, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged India’s private sector to take more risks and make fresh investments, Goyal tore into industry leaders for failing to “help” smaller Indian firms, structuring deals to circumvent rules, and demanding protection in trade negotiations. The government will protect Indian interests but businesses “shouldn’t be petty” and seek easy access for the raw materials they need from abroad, along with protection for their finished goods, he said last week. “I want the US, UK, and Canada markets, but don’t let threads, clothes, wines and automobiles come in from abroad. If this is your approach, then industry has no future. Then forget about FTAs and market access, wherever you can sell your product, just manage it,” Goyal had chided industrialists in a session on government-business synergy at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) national conclave.
Yesterday in Mumbai, the minister asked the export community to further target $2 trillion exports by 2030, comprising $1 trillion merchandise exports and $1 trillion services exports. He announced that two separate divisions are being set up in the Commerce Ministry focused on the services sector in order to attain the $1 trillion services exports target.
New FTAs slated for early conclusion
He asserted it was “singularly the goodwill of PM Modi” that has got India back on the negotiating table with the European Union on Free Trade Agreement (FTA). He said he sees an early win with Australia and a positive result with the UK, and urged the Export Promotion Council leaders to study quality standards and also that of the export markets and work towards aligning them. “Let us accept and adopt quality standards and start building our industries to meet global benchmarks,” he noted. He also called upon Council leaders to study India’s existing FTAs and see whether there were hidden opportunities. “It will help India set significantly higher export targets for 2022-23,” he said.
“FTAs are being formulated in a much more interactive process. We are engaging with industry to ensure that FTAs are fairly and equitably crafted. At the same time, FTAs cannot be a one-way traffic; we also need to open our markets if we want a larger share in the foreign markets. So, we need to identify areas where we can withstand competition. We can sort out FTAs fairly quickly if the areas where we have the ability to compete internationally can be identified as part of a collective effort,” he noted.
The director general of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Amit Yadav, said that efforts were being made to increase India’s exports as a proportion of GDP from the existing 10.2% to 15%. “Engagement with states and districts is a key focus area. Through their role in District Export Promotion Councils, the EPCs should actively contribute in preparing strategy for promoting exports of identified products/services from the districts,” Yadav said.
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