Representatives of industry raised concerns about the impact of various free-trade agreements (FTAs) on the country’s trade and sought more clarity on guidelines governing e-commerce in a meeting with commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday.
The important issues flagged by industry also include ways to promote start-ups, a surge in imports, competitiveness of some sectors and boosting investments, Sitharaman said after the meeting.
India has already forged free trade pacts with countries like Japan, Singapore and South Korea, as well as Asean. Domestic industry has often complained that partner-nations have benefited more from such pacts than India, which has also contributed in good measures to trade deficit. India’s trade deficit touched a record $190 billion in 2012-13 before easing to $137 billion in 2014-15. Between April and November this fiscal, it stood at $88 billion, thanks to lower commodity prices.
The minister is also learnt to have assured them to look at their demand on the abolition of the inverted duty structure in some sectors which are affecting manufacturing. She asked industry to improve competitiveness but sought to allay fears about the impact of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal between the US and 11 others, said a source. She reiterated India’s increased focus on nations such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Senior ministry officials also apprised industry of topics such as Start-up India and Make in India.
The chambers suggested further easing of the foreign direct investment (FDI) regime and sought more clarity on e-commerce. CII president-designate Naushad Forbes said regulatory burden on the firms that are below a certain threshold, say with less than R5 crore capital, be removed to make the start-up space more attractive.
Former Ficci president Harsh Pati Singhania said: “On start-ups, we suggested looking at several issues such as facilitating start-ups and closing of start-ups, funding and tax ambiguity for those who fund them.”
Ficci also suggested that the government could consider permitting 100%FDI in multi-brand retail in non-food segments such as electronics, apparels and fresh food product. Ficci pitched for allowing FDI in multi-brand retail in B2C e-commerce in a phased manner, and “there could be a requirement to source significantly from within India”.
Ficci also said the services provided by the marketplace model on a par with brick and mortar stores can be treated in a similar manner, since both serve consumers. “Thus, apt treatment should be made under the relevant Acts governing internal trade, like the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and Drugs and Cosmetics Act,” it said.