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India to take longer to cut duties on Australia, New Zealand goods

Apr 27, 2017

India plans to take longer to reduce duties on goods imported from Australia and New Zealand, apart from China, than from other partners under the proposed free trade agreement among 16 Asia-Pacific countries.

This is because India does not have any trade pact with these three countries, officials said. Earlier, India had considered least tariff concessions and a longer phaseout only for China so as to reduce the widening trade deficit with the country. However, that formula did not find many takers.

The fresh proposal is likely to be discussed next week when the members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meet in the Philippines. 
It is not about tiers now but deviations since there could be one common concession, said an official aware of the development. 
These deviations will help India offer differential tariff concessions to different members of the grouping, said the official, who did not wish to be identified. 
RCEP is a wide-ranging free trade agreement that covers goods, services, investment, competition, economic and technical cooperation, dispute settlement and intellectual property rights among 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their six free trade agreement partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
With China opposing India’s move and not many countries supporting India’s proposal on services, it is possible that the non-FTA partners have been clubbed together, said a Delhi-based expert on trade matters, requesting anonymity. 
The RCEP negotiations were launched in November 2012 and the first round of negotiations was held in 2013. 
Although the deal has missed many deadlines, it is hoped that a lot of ground could be covered in this round because Philippines is the current chair of ASEAN.
Source: The Economic Times

No inherent objection to free trade agreement with India: US

Apr 27, 2017

The Trump administration has no inherent objection to the India-US free trade agreement though there have been no serious discussions with New Delhi over the issue, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said.

The US does not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with India and as a result India-US trade relationship is currently governed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ross told reporters at a White House news conference yesterday.

However, he said there have been no serious discussion on this with India. 
I don't believe that there have been any serious discussions with India of late on the topic of a free trade agreement. But there's no inherent negative attitude on our part on that, Ross said when asked if he favoured a free trade agreement with India.
Currently, the US has free trade agreements with 20 countries - Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Mexico, Moroccan, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama Peru and Singapore. 
While there is no such move in this regard right now, the previous US administrations have been open to the idea of a India-US FTA. 
I think that (FTA) is something that in the future we see as a very important and positive development. There are certainly concerns between the US and India in terms of some of the protective tariffs and trade barriers that we think that India needs to address, the then Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal had told Senator John McCain during a Congressional hearing in September of 2013.
The US-India bilateral trade relationship is far away from FTA. In the previous Obama administration, the two countries talked about a bilateral investment treaty. 
In a recent document, the US-India Business Council had encouraged the US and India to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) that promotes the free flow of economic resources - capital, people, and technology.
This is a critical step to unleash the full potential of industry in both countries. The process of treaty negotiation would provide a platform to resolve deadlocks and challenges on issues such as tantalisation, the high-skilled work visa program, intellectual property protection and product conformity by aggregating the benefits and mitigating costs, it had said.


Source: The Economic Times

India withdraws additional customs duties on jute goods import from Nepal

Apr 27, 2017

India has withdrawn additional customs duties levied on import of jute products from Nepal. The anti-dumping duty, however, continues.
A Gazette notification on April 20, said Nepal is eligible to get exemptions from additional duties on jute sacks and bags similar to Bangladesh which was granted the exemption in February 2011.
In the said notification (February 14, 2011), after the words from Bangladesh, the word “or Nepal” shall be inserted, the notification said.
Nepal has a minuscule 150 tonnes a day capacity to produce jute goods. This is two to three per cent of India’s annual capacity of 1.9 million tonne. The Himalayan country has 11 jute mills of which six are operational.
Considering low domestic consumption, the survival of Nepal’s jute industry is dependent on Indian imports. In December 2016, India slapped 12.5 per cent additional duty on jute goods imports from Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Nepal. This was followed by imposition of anti-dumping on jute products from Bangladesh and Nepal in January this year.
Prakash Mundara, Secretary-General of the Biratnagar-based Morang Merchants Association in Nepal, believes the additional duty was imposed by mistake. Mundara pointed out that the bi-lateral treaty didn’t have scope for such duties and the Nepalese jute industry benefits Indian farmers as well.
According him, with anti-dumping still on, Nepalese jute industry is now treated at par with Bangladesh.
This is a positive development for India-Nepal relationship. It will help people in either country, Mundara said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

DGFT to hold live chat session on twitter on Apr 28 over FTP mid-term review

Apr 27, 2017

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will hold a live chat session on micro-blogging site twitter on April 28, 2017 over mid-term review of India’s Foreign Trade Policy (FTP).
The live session will be held by Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, on Friday between 3–4 PM.
In a tweet, DGFT said, Tune in for Twitter chat session on mid-term review of Foreign Trade Policy on 28th April at 3PM. Tweet to us with #FTPReview
The queries can be sent to DGFT with #mociseva and #FTPReview.
The exporters and importers are already posting their queries and suggestions related to the FTP on DGFT’s twitter page.
The Government is doing a mid-term review of FTP. For this, DGFT had sought suggestions from stakeholders.
DGFT AK Bhalla, recently said that the Commerce Ministry may have to make certain changes in the export related schemes due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
He also said that the ministry is currently undertaking the stakeholders' consultation for the mid-term review of FTP.
The GST will subsume excise, service tax and other local levies.
Source: Knn India

China fear stalls India - Sri Lanka deal

Apr 27, 2017

India is in no hurry to complete the economic and technical cooperation agreement (ETCA) with Sri Lanka. Officially, India has said it would proceed at a pace comfortable for Colombo. But there are other, bigger reasons for India to guard its flanks while negotiating a second generation free-trade agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka.

China has evinced interest in an FTA with Sri Lanka as well. This has given India pause, as it wants to see the details of that deal. This could include, according to sources, Chinese companies setting up manufacturing bases in Hambantota and Monaragala areas of Sri Lanka and using the IndiaLanka FTA to push Chinese goods into India. We have to be careful, said sources familiar with developments.

The ETCA has also run into trouble in Sri Lanka with some opposition building up against it. India's non-tariff barriers, bureaucratic delays etc have not endeared it to Lankan business. 
Chinese companies are apparently being given 15,000 hectares in Hambantota, a fact former foreign minister G L Peiris told TOI in an interview was nothing short of a “bad deal“. If the deal had been done the way former president Mahinda Rajapakse had intended, Peiris said, Hambantota would have been a sustainable entity .
There was no agreement to hand over 15,000 hectares to a Chinese company .The agreement as structured at the time did not involve the wholesale leasing of the port,but only a terminal of the port, Peiris said. 
Answering questions on the huge debt that Rajapakse left behind, Peiris said, Loans taken by this government is far in excess of what Rajapakse had taken. There was something to show then -today there is nothing. The government has admitted that the money to be paid by China for the port ($1.4 billion) is not to be used for retiring this debt.So the government argument of doing this (giving the land) to pay off the debt doesn't stand.
Instead, India will focus more on infrastructure development in Sri Lanka.New Delhi is working on projects in roads, railways, ports etc. In this, Japan may prove to be a valuable ally for both India and Sri Lanka. Japan will work with India on the Trincomalee port, while Singapore is expected to help develop Trincomalee city .
Peiris said the payment scheme as set out by the Sirisena government is unsustainable. In the proposed agreement, the Chinese company will not pay any money for the next 15 years.At the end of 15 years, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority will get money from the Chinese company only if a dividend is declared, he said.
Source: The Economic Times

India, Sri Lankan discuss bilateral issues

Apr 27, 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday discussed a range of bilateral issues and matters of mutual concern with visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in New Delhi. Following the talks, an agreement on cooperation in economic projects between India and Sri Lanka was signed.
Held comprehensive talks with PM Ranil Wickremesinghe on ways to strengthen India-Sri Lanka ties for the benefit of our citizens, Modi tweeted after the meeting held at Hyderabad House.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari also called on the visiting dignitary.
The discussions of the Indian leadership with the visiting dignitary provided both sides an opportunity to review the progress in implementation of the decisions taken during various high-level exchanges in the past two years or so, including the visit of the Prime Minister to Sri Lanka in March 2015 and the visits of the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to India since February 2015, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. 
The two sides expressed their satisfaction at the progress in implementation of the outcomes of these exchanges, which further strengthened the historically close and friendly relations between the two countries, it said.
The ministry said that the Indian side reiterated India's commitment to promoting prosperity in the neighbourhood and affirmed the continued support of India for realising the vision of the Sri Lankan leadership for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.
The leaders welcomed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in economic projects that was signed after the meeting between Modi and Wickremesinghe. 
The MoU outlines the agenda for bilateral economic cooperation with both sides expressing their commitment to ensuring that this mutually beneficial agenda is expeditiously implemented.
The ministry statement said that both sides also expressed the hope for early conclusion of the ongoing negotiations on the economic and technology cooperation agreement.
Pointing out that India had welcomed Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the Resolution 'Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka' at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last month, the Indian leadership expressed the earnest hope that recommendations on the reconciliation would be completed within the stipulated timeframe of two years, it said.
The Indian interlocutors requested continued cooperation of the Sri Lankan government for humanitarian treatment of Indian fishermen, without resorting to force under any circums tances. 
Indian side also informed the Sri Lankan side of the measures taken by India to encourage the Indian fishermen concerned for adopting deep sea fishing, the statement said.
Wickremesinghe reiterated the invitation to Modi for a visit to Sri Lanka for the Vesak Day celebrations on May 10. 
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister arrived here on Tuesday ona five-day working visit to India.
Source: SME Times

Arun Jaitley expresses Indian concern over worrying signs of protectionism

Apr 27, 2017

Signs of economic protectionism and new barriers to migration are major global concerns, FM Arun Jaitley said in Moscow, days after raising the issue in Washington. 
Speaking on global security challenges at an international security conference on Wednesday, Jaitley listed economic protectionism as a top concern, right after talking about unpredictability in ties between major powers.
There are… worrying signs of economic protectionism. New barriers to migration and the closing of borders are other elements of such an approach. However, such efforts are unlikely to be able to address the complex issues involved, said Jaitley, who is also the country’s defence minister. 
The minister had raised the issue of H-1B visa curbs in a meeting with US counterpart Steven Mnuchin in Washington on the weekend, pointing out that rising protectionism would hurt the global economy.
Speaking in Moscow, he identified Asia as the stage for global competition and said economies in the region will be critical for global growth. For the foreseeable future, Asian economies will continue to be the drivers of global growth. Asia could also be emerging as the stage for competition between large and rising powers, he said. 
Jaitley also listed territorial disputes in the maritime domain as a reason for worry.
India believes that the rights of freedom of navigation and over-flight as well as unimpeded commerce should be ensured. These are vital to India's own economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region, he said in an oblique reference to China. 
Without directly referring to Pakistan, the minister expressed India's concerns on North Korea and its implication on the region, given the history of nuclear proliferation. The recent escalation of tensions in the Korean peninsula is a matter of concern. The linkages between proliferation in that region with the deterioration of India's own security environment is widely known, he said.
On Afghanistan, Jaitley said India was on board with consultations being driven by Russia for a secure, stable and peaceful nation. 
The finance minister also reiterated India’s stand that there can be no distinction between good terrorist and bad terrorist. A policy of zero tolerance towards violence and terrorism and continued efforts to consolidate the capacity of the Afghan government to deal with violence as well as promote development are essential, he said.
The minister will hold bilateral discussions with his Russian counterparts during his visit, with progress expected on several pending issues including the acquisition of air defence systems, helicopters and submarines from Russia.


Source: The Economic Times

CMFRI succeeds in seed production of food fish

Apr 27, 2017

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has successfully developed the seed production technology of a food fish, a marine ornamental fish and a marine ornamental shrimp which are commercially important and high value species in the export market.

The Vizhinjam Research Centre of CMFRI developed the breeding technology of the food fish pink ear emperor, locally known as yeri, ornamental fish Marcia’s anthias and ornamental shrimp named camel shrimp.

The successful development of captive brood stock and breeding of all these species is the first of its kind in the world. CMFRI developed the technology after two years’ of continuous attempt using the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) set up at the institute.

A scientific team led by M K Anil, scientist-in-charge of Vizhinjam Research Centre developed the breeding technology which is expected to boost the mariculture industry and seafood export as well.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

Call for sustainable trade among BCIM countries

Apr 27, 2017

Increased connectivity among Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM countries) will lead to expanded trade volumes. But such trade should be a sustainable one, A Gitesh Sarma, Additional Secretary (Administration), Ministry of External Affairs, said here on Tuesday.
According to him, greater access to each other’s market is desirable and this will help create solid regional integration and promote greater connectivity.
While we focus on expanding trade volumes, equal attention should also be paid to its sustainability. Greater access to each other’s market is desirable to achieve more viable and sustainable trade cooperation in our region, Sarma said during his inaugural speech at the 3rd Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor Joint Study Group meeting.
The bureaucrat also pointed out that greater BCIM connectivity does not, however, mean that these nations will ignore domestic circumstances and developmental aspirations in their respective counties.
Even as we explore greater connectivity between BCIM countries, we should be mindful of different domestic circumstances and developmental aspirations in our respective countries, Sarma added.
The sub-regional cooperation through formats like BCIM complements the Centre’s Act East policy and should help in giving greater impetus to “economic growth and development” in Eastern and North Eastern parts of the country.
We hope that greater linkage of the Eastern India with Bangladesh, China and Myanmar will bring mutually beneficial results for all of us in the region, he added.
Chinese suggestions
Wiang Xiaotao, Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, called for inter-government cooperation and the need to have a discussion on having the right mechanism towards it.
We have drafted an inter-government cooperation mechanism and hope that it is taken up for discussion, he said.
According to Xiaotao, growing economic cooperation will benefit people and also help achieve sustainable development.
Source: The Hindu Business Line