The government hasn’t yet decided on whether to fix a minimum import price (MIP) for steel, as it is in the process of assessing arguments of various stakeholders, commerce secretary Rita Teaotia said on Monday. While steel producers seek such a curb, especially to guard against “dumping” from countries such as China, consuming industries want the continuation of cheaper imports.
“Despite the increase in steel imports, 85% of demand is still being met domestically,” she said. Most of the steel producers are also running at 80% of their capacity, she added.
The government has already imposed a 20% safeguard duty on steel imports until March 2016, and has raised the peak customs duty to 15% this financial year from 10%. However, the steel ministry is reported to have sought even a further hike in the customs duty to 25%, arguing that the measures already taken haven’t succeeded in containing massive imports. The country’s steel imports have surged by 29% during the April-December period, primarily due to “predatory pricing” by countries like China.
India-EU FTA: Stock-taking exercise starts
India and the EU on Monday took stocks of “outstanding issues” for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), which included the EU demand for a reduction in the duties on automobiles, wines and spirits, and Indian demand for greater movement of professionals. Teatoia said the EU has suggested holding a secretary level meeting, which is yet to be scheduled. India would decide on how or whether to proceed after that meeting. However, she added: “We are keen to go ahead and work towards a balanced agreement.”
As many as 16 rounds of negotiations took place between 2007 and 2013 for the proposed bilateral trade and investment agreement, but the negotiations were stuck after that. Teaotia said India has moved ahead on many issues, including easing foreign direct investment norms in insurance, telecoms and banking, which were in sync with the demands of the EU. “In addition to that, we have now a model bilateral investment treaty approved by the Cabinet and that forms the basis on which investment discussions can also go on,” she said.
On the issue of the EU’s ban on the sale sale of around 700 pharma products, clinically tested by GVK Biosciences, which was a reason behind India’s reluctance to revive the FTA talks last year, Teaotia said: “There has been a progress… As we speak, our delegation is already in Brussels and there is a meeting (going on) between the regulators to discuss the GVK matter”. India also raised on Monday the issue of data security status.