Pulwama attack: Import duty hike on Pakistani goods hits Indian traders

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 21, 2019 Published on February 21, 2019

Truck loads of cement, dates and some other items from Pakistan are languishing at the Attari border   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Consignments stuck at Attari border had mostly been paid for by importers here before duties were increased

The sharp increase in import duties on all goods from Pakistan last week by India in response to the Pulwama terror attack has claimed an unintended victim — the Indian importer.

Truck loads of cement, dates and some other items from Pakistan are languishing at the Attari border since February 16 when import duties increased to 200 per cent by India.Indian importers have paid for these goods mostly, but they find it impossible to take delivery because of the duty hike.

“The ban is a welcome step and in the interest of the nation. But importers should not be made to suffer. The consignments that are already in India belong here. At least the ones where the bills-of-entry have been filed should be released without imposition of 200 per cent duty,” said Suneed Kochhar, Chairman, Assocham, Punjab.

The 70 trucks that are parked at Attari, with goods estimated at ₹25 crore, have already been paid for by importers. The exporters are not willing to take back the goods and at 200 per cent duty it is not possible for traders to claim it.

Vendors move SC

“If customs officials do not sort out the matter, the Supreme Court will have to decide on it. The local vendors have filed a case,” Kochhar said.

The vendors want all goods that are at Attari and have been paid for to be cleared at the older rates of duties without imposition of the additional duties.

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) has also raised the matter with the Land Port Authority. “In case of many of the consignments, the bill-of-entry was filed before customs duty was raised. So, ideally the higher customs duties should not be imposed on it. FIEO has raised the matter with the authorities and hopefully it should be sorted out soon,” Ajay Sahai, Director General, FIEO, told BusinessLine.

India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan last week under which it is obligated to treat all member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) alike and impose the same customs duty on all. Following MFN withdrawal, it imposed the higher import duties on goods from Pakistan as an economic sanction on the country for supporting terror activities against India.

Kochhar pointed out that while there was a crackdown at Attari, two barter trade routes operated between Pak-Occupied-Kashmir and J&K were operational. “About 32 trucks of dry dates have crossed over to India in two days via trade routes of J&K. While the import duty on such a truck via ICP Attari is about ₹25 lakh, via the trade route it is nil. These barter routes should be immediately stopped,” he added.

Pakistan exports goods worth $500 million to India every year against $2 billion exported by India. “We haven’t yet got any notification by Pakistan on restrictions on India’s exports to the country,” a government official said.

Published on February 21, 2019
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