Govt explores ways to cut imports, raise exports

  • 05-Oct-2018
  • Govt explores ways to cut imports, raise exports

An inter-ministerial committee on Thursday discussed long and short term measures such as ramping up domestic production and removing bottlenecks with a view to boosting manufacturing, reducing import dependence and promoting exports, an official said.

The other measures, wh­ich were discussed include identification of items heavily dependent on overseas inputs, extent of import dependence of those products, and bottlenecks to ensure better domestic production of inputs. This was discus­sed at the meeting chaired by commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu on addressing trade deficit and pressure on the rupee.

It was suggested to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the department of economic affairs to look at the possibility of exploring renminbi-rupee trade with Chi­na, with which India has a huge trade deficit of $63 billion in 2017-18.

The panel also discussed on the suggestion of exploring rupee/barter trade with countries including Russia, Venezuela and Iran, the official said. Talking to reporters after the meeting, commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan said, “We have a huge manufacturing capacity and the idea was to see how we can ramp it up whether through better capacity utilisation or expansion of existing capacity or creation of new capacity”.

He said it was decided that each department should look at “how capacities should be better utilised and if there are any bottlenecks preventing better capacity utilisation then those bottlenecks should be addressed”. Officials from ministries including coal, steel, mines, agriculture, heavy industries, IT and electronics, and chemicals participated in the meeting.

Meanwhile, an official statement said the group discussed issues of stepping up domestic production of goods across key sectors, to increase domestic availability and promote economic growth and export capacity.

The meeting was attended by several secretaries including from DIPP, commerce and power. “Discussions were held on steps to be taken by ministries and departments to ramp up domestic production through better capacity utilisation and capacity creation and expansion in the short and medium to long term,” the commerce ministry said in a statement.

Key ministries were asked to examine measures on diversification of export base and increase domestic production in order to deal with merchandise trade deficit.

The meeting assumed significance as the rupee has hit an all-time high of 73.81 against the dollar in the intra -day on Thursday. Depreciating rupee would raise In­d­ia’s import bill and widen the trade deficit (difference between imports and exports).

The trade deficit was at a five-year high of $18.02 billion in July. It came down to $17.4 billion in August.

During April-August of FY19, the country’s exports recorded a growth of 16.13 per cent, while imports grew by 17.34 per cent. The widening trade deficit has raised concerns over current account deficit, which has driven the rupee to all-time lows amid soaring oil prices.

The domestic currency has depreciated nearly 14 per cent since the beginning of this year. Besides having impact on current account deficit, the sliding rupee has made imports costlier and led to oil prices skyrocketing to record highs. India is the th­ird largest importer of cru­de oil. Oil imports during the first five months of the current financial year rose by 53.55 per cent to $58.81 billion. Since 2011-12, India’s exports have been hovering at around $300 billion. During 2017-18, the shipments grew by about 10 per cent to $303 billion.

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