Govt customising sops for labour intensive exports: Sitharaman

NEW DELHI: In the wake of falling exports amid a slowing global economy, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that the government is customising the incentives for labour intensive export sectors.

“In most export segments, volume is the same but value has fallen because of currency fluctuation…we are tailor-making the incentives for labour intensive units producing exports,” she said while interacting with the media after meeting with 14 export promotion councils.

The government has already initiated Interest Equalisation Scheme and the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) to support declining exports.

Though exports have been falling for 15 consecutive months, the minister said that sectors such as handloom and ready-made garments are in the positive. She said that through various free-trade agreements, India is exploring opening of new markets and is positive on the conclusion of the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement with the European Union, and a free-trade pact with Europe Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

However, the minister expressed concern over other countries imposing technical barriers to trade against India. Referring to the US’ move of making it mandatory for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) to be manufactured locally for government procurement, she said: “It is in our interest to setup specified API zones for bulk drug manufacturers.”

India has taken a “calibrated position” on its foreign direct investment policy to protect the interests of the self-employed people of the country, Sitharaman said.

The government has recently announced allowing 100% FDI in food retail on condition that the goods have to be manufactured in India.

Sitharaman said that the government will open up FDI in areas where investment and technology cannot be supplied using only domestic resources. “We are being very careful where we can open up and where we cannot,” she said.

On the clarification issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) on e-commerce portals, the industry minister said that the stance of not allowing FDI in B2C (businessto-consumer) trade has not changed.

“Things are still developing in e-commerce and we are addressing the concerns of stakeholders…We have simply issued a clarification. There has been no change in rules for the bricks-andmortar and B2B platform providers,” Sitharaman said.

DIPP had last week issued clear guidelines for marketplace model in e-commerce for companies such as Snapdeal and Flipkart. As per the guidelines, such companies cannot engage into any direct transaction with the consumer, offer any discounts on products or keep inventory of goods. These portals have, however, been allowed to provide services such as call centres and warehousing.

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