Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil

The Centre will tie up with the States to soon roll-out a new scheme called ‘TIES’ — or Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme — to boost export infrastructure, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

She said the States must develop their own export strategy in alignment with the national foreign trade policy, as well as enhance co-operation with Central agencies to set up common facilities for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling.

Ms. Sitharaman was addressing the second meeting of the Council for Trade Development and Promotion, attended by ministers and senior officials from the States and Central government Ministries. “Since most States wanted a Central scheme that supports export infrastructure, we are formulating a scheme to provide financial support and supplement the efforts of States to create export infrastructure. I hope we can soon achieve a consensus for the roll out of this scheme, which is very aptly titled as TIES. This would surely strengthen our ties with the States.”

Road quality

S.C. Ralhan, president of the apex exporters’ body Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said: “Indian roads carry nearly 65 per cent cargo against the global trend where railway is the major contributor. Therefore the States should focus on improving the last mile connectivity of major exporting hubs to Inland Container Depot/Ports. Quality of roads including their load bearing capacity may be upgraded for smooth transit of export goods.”

Pointing out that about 150 Sanitary & Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures (or norms on food safety and animal & plant health standards) and a similar number of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) notifications (including mandatory and voluntary standards) were being issued by World Trade Organisation-member countries each month, Ms. Sitharaman said: “Around 50-60 per cent of these measures have the potential to impact India’s trade.”

Therefore, she said, the States should cooperate with the Centre for setting up common facilities like testing labs and training institutes as well as to ensure packaging and storage support to the Indian industry. So far only 17 States (of the 29 States and seven Union Territories in the country) have prepared their export strategy, Ms Sitharaman said and told the remaining States/UTs to expedite their export strategies. On services, she said IT and ITeS had an overwhelming predominance in India’s services exports but were largely restricted to the U.S. and EU markets and are therefore vulnerable to changes imposed by these two trading blocs.

‘Need to diversify’

“There is a need to diversify our services exports. Areas like medical tourism, nursing and healthcare, education, audio-visual media have an excellent potential that can be harnessed. For this, we need to develop the right competencies like language skills for the East and North East Asian markets,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to soon bring out a Logistics Performance Index to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics. Measures in the pipeline include expediting the proposal for a north east corridor to improve connectivity with south east Asian countries and exports to that region.

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