Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said exports have reached nearly USD 15 billion for the first half of August, after posting the highest-ever monthly performance in July at USD 35 billion. On free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries, he urged the industry to internalise a “give and take” approach, where they also show willingness to open the domestic market to foreign firms.
With the opening up of the major economies after the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian exports rose by nearly 50 per cent to touch a lifetime high of USD 35.43 billion in July. The government is targeting to take the merchandise exports to USD 400 billion for the fiscal. In the first 15 days of August, the exports have touched nearly USD 15 billion. During April to August 2021, exports are 23 per cent higher than what they were in the corresponding period in the pre-pandemic FY20.
“It will be a record breaking year for exports. Exports are engaging with new products, new services, new markets and the world is looking at India as a trusted partner,” Goyal told reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by his ministry here. He said the merchandise exports target for FY23 will have to be kept higher than USD 400 billion, and specified that he wants the overall exports to be USD 2 trillion by 2030, contributed equally from merchandise and services side. On the FTAs, he said Australia has shown the highest interest in moving ahead for an “early harvest”, while UK will be the second in forging such a deal.
Discussions are also on with UAE and one more country in the Middle East for such a pact, he said, adding that in the case of the US, the discussions are on the backburner because of the new administration’s reluctance to ink such partnerships. The minister hoped that signing an FTA with Australia, a developed country with which India has made progress, will make it easier to ink similar agreements with others. India is also in discussion with the European Union (EU), but getting the bloc on board will take some time because it has 27 countries, he said.
As the country marches ahead on signing such agreements which have the potential to increase bilateral trade and give India deeper access to markets, Goyal exhorted the industry to be more pragmatic. “We are trying to ensure that the FTAs are fairly and equitably crafted to bring in more elements of reciprocity. FTA cannot be a one way traffic, we also have to open our markets to others if we want a larger pie in their markets. “My appeal and request to all of you is to also identify areas where we have the confidence that we can withstand competition.
“And if we can get a fair understanding about which are the critical sectors we need to negotiate with each country, and which are the sectors where we have the ability to compete with them and open for them, then I think we will be able to get FTAs sorted out fairly quickly,” he said. Goyal said the decision to walk out of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) trade deal was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after discussions with all stakeholders and added that the bold and decisive move was an “unexpected” event for many.
The minister also said Indian exporters will have to be conscious of quality and set standards in such a way that there is no differentiation between goods produced for domestic or international markets. He pointed out that the pharma sector has done the same, which has helped the country become the pharmacy of the world.