Task ahead for Prabhu
The editorial, “A formidable agenda” (September 5), highlights the tasks before new Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu ( pictured). No doubt, his role is significant at a time when exporters are facing post-goods and services tax hurdles, declining exports, an appreciating rupee and trade imbalance with several countries.
A recent NITI Aayog report suggests inter-alia import substitutions as one of the measures to curtail underemployment in the country. The suggestion is timely and should be taken into consideration. Import substitution plays a pivotal role in creating jobs and minimising foreign exchange outgo on various goods and services.
The government directive to all departments to identify high-volume imports from China is the right step to change the open general licence policy with that country; this kind of study is needed also for those countries with which India has free trade agreements — be it China, South Korea, Thailand or the Philippines.
Prabhu has an opportunity to push import substitution policies, especially when his ministry is undertaking a mid-term review of Foreign Trade Policy (FTP). All FTP provisions should be fine-tuned, with an emphasis on import substitution and exports.
Prabhu should also focus on pruning the list of prohibitive export items and put in place sustainable and inclusive trade policies with ASEAN countries, as most of them are facing protectionist policies from developed nations.
The role of Export Promotion Councils and commodity boards should be redefined; they should be made more responsible and accountable to avail of Market Development Assistance from the commerce ministry.
Exporters, importers and all other stake holders are hoping for a pragmatic and effective mid-term FTP. Prabhu could revise Make in India as “Make in India for Exports” through enabling provisions in the FTP besides ensuring ease of doing business in the country.