India’s exports declined 17.84 per cent during April-November this fiscal, said Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan on Wednesday, but added that the decline was much lower if sectors such as gems & jewellery and petroleum were excluded.

Commerce and Industry Minister, Piyush Goyal, in his address at the Board of Trade (BoT) meeting, painted a more promising picture for the future and said the country was rebounding in a rapid recovery phase and going forward it is possible to achieve the export target of $1 trillion and a GDP target of $5 trillion by 2025.

“The industry has become more resilient. International global supply chains are looking up at India to provide an anchor for transparent and more open economies to engage with. We are working together to provide an enabling environment for business to operate in India,” Goyal said.

Exporters, however, stressed on the need for timely benefits to help them deal with competition and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Expanding on the trade figures, Wadhawan said that imports contracted by 33.56 per cent in the April-November period while trade deficit narrowed.

Export policy

Export sectors which did well during the eight-month period include pharmaceuticals, rice and iron ore. “The decline is much lower in the sectors where economic activity is more meaningful in terms of value addition,” he said at the meeting.

The BoT, chaired by the Minister and with representatives from the industry and government, met on Wednesday to discuss the new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) (2021-26) and the strategies and measures to be taken in order to take forward domestic manufacturing and exports.

Representatives of various export promotion councils and industry bodies made presentations to highlight areas of concern and propose the way forward. The EEPC India pointed out that exporters were affected by the immense working capital blockage problems due to enactment of CGST Rules (Rule 96(10)) in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which must be sorted out.

The Council’s requests

The Apparel Export Promotion Council requested simplification of rules, extension of benefits and execution of free trade agreements to get over duty disadvantages in global markets.

The EEPC also urged the government to announce rates under the new Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) scheme (which will replace the popular MEIS) at the earliest so that it is possible for exporters to factor in the benefits from January 1, 2021.

The Minister said it was time to move to more free flowing trade which is on the back of India’s strength of quality, cost competitiveness and leveraging on comparative advantage like labour.

Goyal said that most State governments were cooperating to make the country a more attractive investment destination.

He said as many as 13 States were already part of the GIS-enabled land bank system. “We are looking at a genuine single window system which can help us expand ease of doing business,” the Minister said.