Despite the onset of a global slowdown in 2008, India's foreign trade has continued to grow. However, India was not totally immune to the economic storm that unfolded across the US and Europe and the country's foreign trade witnessed a small blip in 2009-10.

But there seems to be a directional shift in India's foreign trade, away from its long-standing traditional partners of the West to the emerging economies, especially the so-called BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.

During 2006-07 and 2010-11, India's trade share with Russia, China and Brazil increased while trade with traditional partners such as the US, UK and Germany showed a downward trend. In fact, the fall in share with these developed countries as a percentage of India's total international trade was far faster than the growth with the BRICS nations.

But the growth in trade with the BRICS nations seems to have come at a price. While trade with countries such as China and South Africa has grown rapidly over the last decade, the trade deficit has been increasingly widening, unfavourably to India.

Statistics for Brazil were not available, while trade with Russia, an old-time partner, continues to be dominated by defence and technology purchases. The figures available are not likely to be truly reflective of the growth in trade of goods and services.

While trade with South Africa was on an even keel in 2006-07, the terms of trade became increasingly unfavourable over the years. But there seems to have been some improvement in 2010-11.

Meanwhile there has been a deep correction in the pace of trade with the rich countries of the West since the economic slowdown of 2008. The value of trade with the US corrected in the successive years of 2008-09 and 2009-10.

But in the case of the UK and Germany, while trade moderated in 2008-09, the correction was visible in 2009-10.

In the case of China and South Africa, the trade momentum continued even though with some moderation. But in the case of old-time partner Russia, there have been ups and downs.

cj@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 26, 2012)
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