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FinMin to look into changes sought by Canada in draft bilateral treaty

Apr 28, 2017

Softening its stance on the non-negotiability of the model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), the Finance Ministry has agreed to engage with Canada on the changes it has sought in some of the provisions, as part of the investment pact being negotiated between the two countries.
 
Canada has issues with the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the model BIT, which lays down that all domestic options need to be exhausted before a company can go for international arbitration. It does not come with a time-line raising apprehensions that if domestic courts take a long time in sorting out a dispute, the foreign investor would have no option other than to wait.
 
The Department of Economic Affairs recently invited Canadian officials to give a presentation on the additional demands so that it could deliberate on the points raised, a government official told BusinessLine.
 
There is enormous political pressure to get the BIT and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Canada off the ground. Based on Canada’s proposal, India could also examine what can be done for similar concerns raised by other countries in the BIT, the official said.
 
MFN-forward clause
Canada also wants a Most Favoured Nation (MFN)-forward clause and a ratcheting provision in the bilateral BIT which are not there in the model BIT. The MFN-forward clause will lead to automatic forwarding of concessions that India may extend in future to other trading partners. Ratcheting, on the other hand, would lead to automatic extension of benefits arising from future relaxations of New Delhi's domestic policies to Canada, and vice-versa.
 
Based on Canada’s presentation, if the Finance Ministry does agree to bring about certain relaxations in the BIT, it would not be a specific relaxation for the country, but a uniform change for others too, he added. India drafted a new model BIT to avoid the string of litigations that it had been facing from global companies over the last few years, but it has faced criticism from many of its trading partners, including EU countries.
 
Concerns are also being raised in the government on whether the lack of BITs could impact the country’s attractiveness to foreign investors and its ranking on the Ease of Doing Business, another official pointed out.

 

    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



Why Pakistan Exports More Mangoes Than India

Apr 28, 2017

It's that time of the year again when Pakistani mango nationalists start beating the war drums, raising their claims of mango superiority to decibel levels that cross the noise pollution mark.
 
The campaign has begun. It's not even May yet. Lies, damned lies and statistics are being used to suggest Pakistani mangoes are better. Looking for foreign approval as always, Pakistanis are tom-tomming export figures that show Pakistan exports more mangoes than India, even though India produces a lot more of them.
 
Such data should be seen with scepticism. The statisticians who calculate India's GDP should look into the mango export data and update it to Achhe Din levels.
 
A few million tonnes of exploding mangoes here and there isn't going to end the aams race.
 
Yet the real issue isn't about export numbers. A few million tonnes of exploding mangoes here and there isn't going to end the aams race. It's a more fundamental idea of why the Pakistanis are so eager and desperate to export their mangoes, and India isn't.
 
It's obvious: Pakistani mangoes aren't delicious enough to be consumed by Pakistanis themselves, so they export them. This is why Pakistan exports more mangoes than India.
 
Any mango lover will tell you there is no such thing as enough mangoes. The more you eat, the more you want. Mangoes are best eaten from buckets of water, one after another, like chimpanzees eat them. It's criminal to keep count.
 
You can eat mangoes like there's no tomorrow only if they are good. If they taste and smell like mangoes do. What would Pakistanis know? Hence the exports.
 
In fact, Modi's New India should ban mango exports altogether. It's outrageous that mango export is even allowed. Indian mangoes should be for Indians only. How can we go about selling the family silver
 
It makes sense to export wheat and rice because India produces so much of it that it rots in our godowns. China exports electronic goods because their factories make too many of them, all year round. But mangoes don't get made in factories. They are seasonal and their supply is limited.
    
Source: Huffington Post



Tea board links small growers via SMS service

Apr 28, 2017

Taking Prime Minister’s ‘Digital India’ concept forward, the Tea Board has launched a scheme called ‘SMS Gateway for Small Growers’. This will connect 25,000 registered small growers with the Tea Board on a regular basis as five SMS will be sent to them every month, Nilgiris Collector Dr P Sankar, who launched the scheme told BusinessLine.
 
The SMS will give information on area-specific issues, including the average price they should get from the factories for green leaf supplies, pest and disease management, quality maintenance and subsidies, Tea Board Executive Director Paulrasu said.
 
We will link it with banks to help growers get their payments in time, Tea Board Deputy Director Hariprakash Nair said.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



Sitharaman inaugurates orientation for SFPC establishment in Arunachal Pradesh

Apr 28, 2017

Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for commerce and industry (independent charge), inaugurated the orientation programme for the establishment of spice farmer producer companies (SFPCs) and buyer-seller meet at the Banquet Hall in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, recently. Organised by Spices Board, it was an initiative by the government of India to benefit the small and marginal spice farmers in the north-eastern states. 
 
Over 100 spice farmers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), farmers’ associations and primary processors from Arunachal Pradesh and 35 big exporters from across the country came together for the orientation programme and buyer-seller meet, which was also attended by officials from the concerned departments and organisations of the state and Central government. 
 
The objective of the programme is to operationalise SFPCs on a pilot basis in three districts - Ziro in Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh for large cardamom, Namsai in Namsai District of Arunachal Pradesh for ginger and West District in Sikkim for large cardamom - to empower the farmers, especially women, in the identified spice-growing districts, for better price realisation through post-harvest management, primary processing, value addition, packing, aggregation, organic certification, etc. 
 
Each SFPC will have 500 farmers as members in a sub-division or district. They will be identified on cluster basis in a village, taluk or district by forming farmer interest groups (FIGs), each of which will comprise 20 farmers. Twenty-five such FIGs will be formed to establish a SFPC. 
    
Source: FNB News



Niti Aayog pegs GDP to grow 8%; bats for agriculture, tax reforms

Apr 28, 2017

Niti Aayog has exuded confidence that India will get back to over 8 per cent growth as it proposed a host of reforms, including reduction in corporate tax to 25 per cent and uniform import duty at 7 per cent. 

The three-year draft action agenda released by the Aayog today stressed on reforms in taxation, agriculture and governance, among others with a view to accelerate the all- round development of the country.
 
Indeed, there are good prospects that we will return to 8 per cent plus growth trajectory in another 2-3 years if not sooner. Therefore, the chances of massive cut in the poverty rate in the upcoming decade are excellent, said the 208-page agenda circulated among the chief ministers on Sunday. 
 
The action agenda will replace the five-year planning system. The 12th Five Year Plan, the last of the series, ended on March 31. 
 
With regard to taxation reforms, the Aayog has proposed the government should do away with the corporate tax exemptions and bring down the tax rate from 34 per cent to 25 per cent (including surcharges and cesses) for all companies. 
 
However, the tax slabs corresponding to the lowest tax rate should be expanded to ensure that the tax liability of lower income individuals does not increase suddenly with the growth in their nominal income," the draft agenda said. 
 
In the Union Budget 2017, the income tax rate on income between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh was lowered to 5 per cent from 10 per cent. 
 
With regard to farm income, it said the government should plug the loopholes to stop misuse by non-agriculture entities to evade taxes by declaring agriculture as a source of their income. 
 
On doubling farmers' incomes by 2022, the paper has suggested a reform in the Agricultural Produce Marketing (APMC Act) to ensure that farmers receive remunerative prices. 
 
It further said productivity should be raised through enhanced irrigation, faster seed replacement and precision agriculture. 
 
On the governance front, the draft makes case for recalibrating the role of the government by shrinking its involvement in activities that do not serve a public purpose" and expanding its role in areas that necessarily require public provision. 
 
Further, the action agenda emphasised on strengthening the civil services through better human resource management, e-governance, addressing anomalies in tenures of secretaries and increasing specialisation and lateral entry. 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



Karnataka govt sets aside Rs 100 cr for organic farming to spur growth

Apr 28, 2017

The government of Karnataka has dedicated nearly Rs 100 crore out of the Rs 6,505 crore it has allocated for agriculture and horticulture in its 2017-18 Budget for various activities related to organic farming. This will be increased if farmer interest increases.
 
The state, which set aside Rs 845 crore for the Raitha Suraksha Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna, has ensured that this insurance coverage is available to organic farmers as well. 
 
Organic produce is an expanding market. Growth is tempered by the huge price difference between organic and non-organic produce. It could grow faster if the price difference narrows. However, the government is of the view that it will inevitably grow to be a much bigger market. 
 
The millet movement is a recent phenomenon, which has been gaining momentum over the last four or five years. The interest in millets rose partly due to a rise in lifestyle-related ailments, coupled with an increase in awareness and desire for a balanced diet. 
 
Healthy living and eating has been gaining priority. The millet movement coincided with the movement for healthy lifestyles and wellness, said Karnataka agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda. 
 
Between April 28 and 30, the state will organise the National Trade Fair - Organics and Millets – 2017 in association with the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) at Palace Grounds, Bengaluru. 
 
While the Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation Ltd (KAPPEC) is the co-organiser, ICCOA is the knowledge partner of the event.
 
We were the first state to come out with the state organic policy. We have taken a farmer federation approach to ensure higher income to farmers. This will expand farmer interest in organic farming. We are very actively promoting organic produce through awareness programmes, melas, social media and trade fairs. Such a comprehensive approach is unmatched, Gowda said.
 
Bengaluru offers a very progressive environment, wherein various institutions and stakeholders have proactively joined hands in promoting the consumption of millets, the minister stated. 
 
The ministry of agriculture has played an active role in connecting various stakeholders to develop awareness, supply and a market for millets, he added.
 
This government also initiated the millet movement in Karnataka by bringing together stakeholders from a backward and forward integration perspective, Gowda stated.
 
Emphasis was laid on reversing the declining area under millet cultivation. Simultaneously, proactive promotion of the health benefits of millets assisted in building market demand, he added.
 
Farmer interest towards organic farming and millet cultivation will ultimately depend on reliable markets and better prices, Gowda stated. 
 
Better prices need not come from an increase in retail prices. We need to ensure that farmers get a larger share of the retail price. We believe mid-size farmer groups can be connected to front-end companies to ensure economic gains to both, he added. 
 
This is the approach we have taken in Karnataka, which indicates promising growth prospects. If this works, more farmers would be eager to go the organic way, said the minister.
    
Source: FNB News



Agri minister inaugurates National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif

Apr 28, 2017

The two-day National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif Campaign–2017, which concluded in New Delhi recently, was inaugurated by Radha Mohan Singh, minister of agriculture and farmers’ welfare and addressed by Parshottam Rupala and Sudarshan Bhagat, ministers of state for agriculture and farmers’ welfare.
 
The conference was attended by the secretary, department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare, besides agriculture production commissioners, principal secretaries, secretaries, directors of the state departments of agriculture, horticulture and agriculture marketing, senior scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other officials from relevant ministries and agencies.
 
In his inaugural address, Singh applauded efforts of the Central and state governments in attaining an estimated record production of about 272 million metric tons (MMT) of foodgrains and 33.6 million metric tons of oilseeds.
 
He referred to the expected quantum jump in the production of pulses, which is estimated at a record-breaking 22.14 million metric tons as per the Second Advance Estimates.
 
Singh pointed out to the encouraging first stage forecast of the south-west monsoon during Kharif 2017 and exhorted the states to make all necessary arrangements of agricultural inputs for our farmers.
 
He stressed on the commitment of the government to double the income of farmers by 2022, and the initiatives taken by the Centre towards this end.
 
A roadmap has been prepared to scale up pulses production to 24 MMT by 2021. Singh complimented the states that have achieved the target of delivery of soil health cards to all farmers and exhorted the others to complete the first phase in the next two to three months.
 
Singh pointed out that the second cycle of the Soil Health Card scheme will commence in May 2017. Referring to the growing popularity of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), he hoped that the states will expand the coverage further this year.
 
He encouraged the states to implement the Paramparagat Krishi Yojana in a mission mode to promote organic farming, particularly in the rain-fed and hilly areas. He reiterated the need to introduce marketing reforms in the agriculture sector to enable farmers a better price realisation.
 
Rupala highlighted the achievements made under the flagship schemes of the department and made a particular reference to the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana which was launched during Kharif 2016.
 
Under this new scheme, comprehensive risk coverage from pre-sowing to post-harvest losses has been provided. He exhorted the states to leverage technology in the implementation of the scheme and achieve the targets for insurance coverage of 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the total cropped area/farmers in 2017-18 and 2019-20, respectively.
 
Bhagat stated that it was absolutely imperative that all flagship schemes of the governments are given the highest priority to bring about material improvements in the lives of our farmers.
 
Shobhana K Pattanayak, agriculture secretary, pointed out the multi-pronged strategy needed to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. He laid particular emphasis on initiatives to reduce the cost of production, bridging the yield gaps in productivity and ensuring better price realisation for our farmers. He particularly emphasised the necessity for adoption of technology in this regard.
 
Eight groups have been formed for in-depth discussion on the following topics:
Market reforms – Introduction of contract farming, effective role of the electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) and inter-market trading on the e-NAM platform
Sustainability of pulses production in the coming season
Best mechanisation practices to avoid burning of straw
Utilisation of a corpus fund under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
Doubling of farmers’ incomes based on paper circulated by Ramesh Chand, member, NITI Aayog
Making the north-eastern and Himalayan states powerhouses of horticultural development – organic farming
Issues related to horticulture
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
    
Source: FNB News



India-Italy ties on recovery path via trade

Apr 28, 2017

Relations between India and Italy are set on the path to recovery, after strains that developed over the past years, with the Joint Economic Commission slated to meet in Rome in May after a gap of eight years, it was announced here on Thursday.
 
Visiting Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Ivan Scalfarotto said at the Italy-India Business Forum here that Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be leading a delegation for the joint commission meeting scheduled to be held in the middle of May.
 
Scalfarotto is currently in India at the head of a 140-member delegation, that includes representatives of 60 Italian companies, in a bid to boost bilateral trade and investment relations.
 
Bilateral relations were affected following the death of two Kerala fishermen at the hands of two Italian marines in the Enrica Lexie case in 2012.
 
This India-Italy Business Forum is the official launch of a new partnership between both countries and involves the sharing of knowledge and experience, Italian Ambassador Lorenzo Angeloni said addressing the packed venue.
 
Noting that some Italian companies like Fiat and Ferrero Rocher are household names in India, Additional Secretary Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Atul Chaturvedi said the government had asked India's ambassador in Italy to start an outreach programme to attract small and medium industry to India, on the lines of a similar programme started in Germany.
 
This is the first Italian business delegation to India since 2011 and signals the revitalisation of our relationship after its slowing down over the past some years, Licia Mattioli, Vice President of the Italian Industry Association Confindustria, said.
 
Despite the political and bilateral uncertainties of the last few years, Italian companies in India played a central role in keeping our cooperation going, she said.
 
Bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to around $7.3 billion. There are over 600 Italian companies present in India.
 
Italian foreign direct investment in India amounts to around 5 million euros.
    
Source: SME Time



Strong India-China partnership key for global growth: IMF

Apr 28, 2017

A strong partnership between India and China, which are currently responsible for half of the global growth, is important for the world, the IMF has said. 
 
Global cooperation and pursuing the right policies can help achieve strong, sustained, balanced, and inclusive growth, Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, told PTI in an interview. 
 
India and China are currently responsible for half of the global growth, so a strong economic partnership between these two large economies is very important - for their people and for the world, he said. 
 
Well-implemented trade agreements can contribute to economic prosperity for all concerned, the top IMF official said. 
 
The IMF has always supported an open trade system, as trade has been an engine of growth for the global economy. The objective of open trade conducted under fair rules that are well enforced is a shared objective," he said. 
 
Under the G-20 framework, China and India, among others, have committed to strengthening the contribution of trade to economies. 
 
Zhang said economic integration has been an important source of global economic growth, poverty reduction, and welfare gains, especially for Asia. 
 
Yet integration and technological change have at times been accompanied by dislocations for some groups, which have been accentuated by the sluggish post-crisis recovery. 
 
Maintaining openness to trade is very important, especially for Asia," he said. 
 
At the same time, it is important to put in place policies to share the gains from trade more broadly and help those burdened with the cost of adjustment, he added. 
 
Workers should be equipped to help themselves through active labour market policies and education. For more vulnerable groups, fiscal policies can be deployed. Broader access to credit will also help. Smoother social integration of migrants can increase their economic contributions, he said. 
 
According to Zhang, the emerging markets near-term growth outlook remains broadly stable despite external pressures, reflecting stronger growth prospects in the US and a rebound in some commodity prices from last year's lows. 
 
Still, emerging markets remain vulnerable to tighter global financial conditions and capital flow reversals, he opined. 
 
Emerging economies need to reduce financial vulnerabilities by strengthening corporate and banking system health, while using the exchange rate as a shock absorber. 
 
Commodity exporters should continue adjusting to lower prices. Structural reforms are needed to boost potential growth, Zhang said. 
 
Multilateral cooperation and policy coordination is needed not only among major emerging markets, but all economic players in the world to preserve the global economic expansion, including by preserving an open trading system, safeguarding global financial stability, achieving equitable tax systems, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, said the top IMF official. 
 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



India can lead globally by improving manufacture: FM

Apr 28, 2017

At a time of protectionist trends in the developed world, India can become the leading proponent of globalisation only if the country improves on its manufacturing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday.
 
On whether we can lead the process of globalisation, if for three years in a row we can be among the fastest growing economies in the world...on services we are among the leaders, Jaitley said, while addressing the annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
 
But the question is, can we improve our manufacturing he asked.
 
As a measure of the de-industrialisation of India in course for quite some time, the contribution of manufacturing has shrunk to around 15-16 percent of GDP. Through various measures, the government is trying to increase this share to around 25 percent.
 
The Finance Minister said that India has been a big beneficiary of globalisation in the way of foreign investment, especially at a time when private domestic investment has been sluggish.
 
As per official data, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into India in 2016, jumped 18 percent to a record $46.4 billion, at a time when global FDI inflows fell.
 
Moreover, investments by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) into Indian equities and bonds in March hit highest in about 15 years. Overseas investors bought $8.84 billion worth of Indian shares and bonds during March, in the biggest monthly inflow since 2002.
 
In this connection, Jaitley also mentioned that the government would soon wind up the inter-ministerial Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) that approves investment proposals.
 
We are in the final stages of doing away with the FIPB...90 percent of FDI is anyway now allowed through the 'automatic route', the minister added.
    
Source: SME Time



India, Poland ink agriculture agreement

Apr 28, 2017

India and Poland on Thursday signed an agreement on the exchange of information and technology in the agriculture sector.
 
The agreement, signed by Minister of State of Small Industries Giriraj Singh from the Indian side, will see cooperation between the two nations and emphasise on the need to expand their trade relations.
 
The signing ceremony took place after the formal talks between visiting Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
 
The two sides will explore more possibilities to strengthen their collaboration in mining, food processing and defence sectors.
 
Ansari is on a three-day state visit to Poland and will meet Polish President Andrzej Duda, who will make a state visit to India later this year.
 
Ansari will also meet the Speaker of the Polish Senate. 
 
The Vice President will be the main speaker at a business forum on Thursday, organised by the Polish Ministry of Economic Development. 
 
Some 150 businessmen and companies from the two countries will participate in the deliberations.
 
He will also interact with several key members of the Indian community.
    
Source: SME Time



Huge potential exists in Arunachal for spices export

Apr 28, 2017

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said that huge potential exists in Arunachal Pradesh for export of different spices including large cardamom, ginger and turmeric.
 
There is scope for export of spices like large cardamom, ginger, turmeric, which area produced naturally organic in Arunachal Pradesh, an official statement quoting the minister said.
 
She said this while inaugurating the orientation programme for establishment of Spice Farmers Producer Companies (SFPCs) and a buyer-seller meet in Itanagar.
 
The event aimed at highlighting the promotion of spices and herbs being grown in Arunachal Pradesh and integrate the farmers of the state with markets in India and abroad.
 
In order to aggregate the farmers produce, SFPCs shall be formed, Sitharaman said.
 
She added that Spices Board, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North Eastern Council and Arunachal Pradesh government are to work together for materialising the establishment of SFPCs.
The first SFPC in the country will be established in the state.
 
Further the minister asked the government of Arunachal Pradesh to submit a proposal under the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme, which aims at promoting export infrastructure in states.
 
Speaking at the inauguration, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju requested the Commerce Minister for establishing border haat along the border of Myanmar in Arunachal Pradesh. PTI RR MR
    
Source: India Today



FM Arun Jaitley promises no surprises in GST rate fixation

Apr 28, 2017

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today promised not to spring any surprises in fixing tax rates under the new GST regime, saying they will not be significantly different from current levels. 
 
He, however, said companies should pass on to consumers the benefit of reduction in taxes under GST which will eliminate the current compounding effect of different central and state levies. 
 
The GST Council, headed by Jaitley and comprising representatives of all the states, is scheduled to meet in Srinagar on May 18-19 to finalise tax rates on different goods and services after unifying at least 10 indirect taxes into the Goods and Services Tax (GST). 
 
Speaking at CII's Annual Meeting, he said rules and regulations governing GST have all been framed. 
 
We are now in final stages of fixing tariffs for different commodities. 
 
The GST Council has finalised four rate categories of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent after unifying levies like central excise, service tax and VAT. 
 
Fitment will be done by adding the total incidence of current taxation (central plus state levies) and then putting the good or service in the tax bracket closest to it. 
 
Jaitley said the GST Council has so far had 13 meetings and has never had to resort to voting to decide on any issue. 
 
And therefore all states representing different political complexions, have all agreed (on GST structure), he said. 
 
The Finance Minister said the Council is of the opinion that any benefit accruing from lower tax rates under GST should be passed on to consumers. 
 
Profit is not a bad word... but unfair enrichment is. And therefore the benefit of reduction in taxation is a benefit that consumers are entitled to. And that's not a principle that can be seriously contested, he said. 
 
The GST laws approved by Parliament have incorporated an anti-profiteering provision to ensure that the reduction of tax incidence is passed on to the consumers. 
 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



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