New Delhi: The 1st meeting of the Council for Trade Development and Promotion was held here today. Welcoming the commerce & industry ministers from 10 States and senior officials from others, Union Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed the hope that the council would help in developing a framework for making the States active partners of this Ministry in boosting the country’s exports.
The Union minister said that the 1st meeting of the council would provide a platform to ensure a continuous dialogue with the State governments and Union Territories for creating an enabling environment conducive to international trade.
Sitharaman asked the State governments to give inputs for creating facility for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling. She advised the States to enhance their cooperation with central agencies for setting up common facilities like testing laboratories, training institutes as well as packaging and storage support to industry.
The minister told the States that there was a need to diversify the country’s services exports basket by enabling more sectors and to reach more markets. Other areas like medical tourism, nursing and healthcare, education, audio-visual media also have good potentials, which can be harnessed.
Highlighting the measures taken for enhancing the ease of doing business, the commerce minister said that the number of mandatory documents required has been reduced to 3 for export and 4 for imports as against the earlier requirements of 7 documents for exports and 10 for imports.
She requested all the States to consider organizing bimonthly meetings with the exporters in their States to sort out their infrastructure and tax related issues.
The State representatives thereafter submitted their suggestions and gave feedback on measures to remove roadblocks in improving the exports from the States. The Karnataka Industry & Trade Minister RV Deshpande underscored the importance of upgrading railway connectivity and doubling tracks, upgrading minor ports and enhancing their connectivity with hinterland. He also requested upgrading of selected State roads as National Highways and their maintenance. He gave specific suggestions for giving the HS-Code for perfumed agarbattis and rose onions grown in the Kolar-Chikaballapur districts of Karnataka. He also requested for an upgrade of the Hubli airport as an international airport.
Deshpande observed that the imposition of MAT was hindering the growth of SEZs. He also sought changes in the “ease of doing business” policy, stating that the rankings should be linked to implementation and should be more practical that should reflect the performance of the State.
Assam’s Minister of Industries and Commerce Siddeque Ahmod requested several measures for improving road links and road connectivity with Bangladesh as well as transit facilities with the eastern neighbour. He also requested warehousing facilities for tea.
Himachal Pradesh Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri sought the Centre’s help for rail connectivity and also for restoring the special package for his State. He also sought action on the Chandigarh-Baddi railway line for which an MoU has already been signed.
Commerce Minister from Punjab Madan Mohan Mittal sought a package in health for the State, considering that it had to suffer for about 15 years on account of terrorism.
Industry Minister from Rajasthan Gajendra Singh Khimsar suggested that a separate export promotion council be set up for dimensional stones. He also requested establishment of a revenue laboratory at Jaipur so that the delay in sending export consignments could be shortened.
Most States highlighted the importance of restoring the ASIDE (Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities) schemes. Apex trade associations FICCI, ASSOCHAM and CII gave their presentations and suggestions for making gains amidst a challenging world economic scenario. The director general of foreign trade gave a presentation on the recent trends in Indian trade scenario and role of States in trade promotion.
The commerce minister briefed the media after the meeting. She summed up the suggestions from the State governments under 3 broad parameters: strengthening of infrastructure, benefits to exporters and restoring the facility of ASIDE. The minister said that the important initiatives taken by the respective State governments were shared amongst themselves and with the Centre and this would help in improving the strategy being followed by the respective States for increase in exports. She said that the ministry would give specific replies to specific suggestions that have been given by the State representatives at the council meeting.