The meeting assumes significance in the light of worrying Current Account Deficit (CAD) scenario and was attended by among others FICCI President Naina Lal Kidwai and FIEO President Rafeeque Ahmed along with heads of major Export Promotion Councils.
Addressing the exporters, Sharma said that the rising trade deficit has a cascading impact on CAD. Last year, exports reached US$ 300.2 billion, while imports touched US$ 491.9 billion, leaving a deficit of US$ 191 billion up from US$ 183 billion the previous year. He cited weakening global demands along with developments like mining restrictions in Goa and Karnataka, and unprecedented rise in gold import as the major contributors.
The exporters put forward their demands for expansion of incentive schemes and a smoother regime for various clearances. Sector-specific councils submitted their inputs. Sharma assured a concerted effort to help the exporters and inform them about his meeting with the Finance Minister and forthcoming meeting with the Prime Minister in which he will take up the suggestions received during this consultation. Acknowledging the importance of high-tech products, Sharma said that, “We had announced that export of high- tech products will be encouraged. The list is under preparation. Emphasis on value-added products will be given.”
Regarding the differential rate of credit, the Minister stressed that, “Same needs to be provided for exporters as interest subvention still falls well short of global lending rates.” He further stated that it is crucial as Indian exporters in any eventuality have to deal with high transaction costs on account of infrastructure bottlenecks. He indicated that he will take it up when the meeting with Prime Ministers happens. At the same time, efforts will be made to bring down transaction cost through Electronic Data Exchange. “24 x 7 custom clearance at ports will be pursued in a mission mode and senior Ministry officials will visit the major ports to expedite it at the earliest.”
Sharma exhorted the export bodies to focus on SMEs who account for sizeable chunk of our exports. Furthermore, he said that exporters should rise up to the challenge and commensurate performance should be visible.