There is no indication of ‘surge’ in imports of steel from Japan and Korea and the government is willing to look into the injuries to domestic steel industry if there are any, top commerce ministry official said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.

“Our data captured by customs through Director General of Commercial Intelligence Services does not indicate there has been a ‘surge’ of steel imports from Japan and Korea,” said the commerce secretary, Mr S.R. Rao while inaugurating an international conference on ‘Benefits and Challenges arising out of India’s FTAs’ organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

“FTAs provide a rule-based framework based on which we can raise our concerns should specific recorded data show there has been in fact an injury to our industry,” said Mr Rao while responding to the concerns highlighted by Mr Sharad Mahendra, senior vice-president at Jindal Steel Works (JSW) at the conference organized under the aegis of ASSOCHAM National Council on WTO.

“However, we are alive to the situation and we would see that every Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has a safeguard clause, either sides have a safeguard clause so that we do not act in an irresponsible manner,” said Mr Rao.

Highlighting the process of how the Department of Commerce goes about before engaging with any country on FTA or the Regional Trade Agreement (RTA), Mr Rao said the overall effort is to maximize and leverage India’s strengths while ensuring what we yield to them is commensurate to the gains we are getting. “The tariff liberalization programme is almost back-handed in whatever FTAs India has entered into so far with only exceptions being the neighbouring South-Asian countries and that rule still applies.”

Mr Rao further said that government carries out annual or bi-annual revenues with its partner country to try and understand as to how is the FTA playing out and whether there is any case of surge in imports which is affecting our domestic industry.

With regards to the next India-EU (European Union) meeting on proposed FTA, the commerce secretary informed that certain intersectional meetings are taking place at the moment.

Sharing his views on the rise in gold imports, trade secretary said, “Certainly any trade deficit is of concern to the government but this is a step in which both the regulator i.e. the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Ministry of Finance and Department of Commerce are involved and we are consulting together.”

On the issue of putting curbs on consignment imports by trade agencies like MMTC, Mr Rao said, “The RBI has already imposed some restrictions on consignment imports of banks so we are seeing in which way we need to forward now and we are examining the various issues.”

The secretary also said that government is constantly making outreach efforts to sensitise the industry and various partners about emerging opportunities and challenges arising out of the international trade agreements.

Amid others who spoke during the ASSOCHAM conference included: Prof. Thomas Cottier, WTI, Switzerland; Mr Rajkumar Dhoot, president, ASSOCHAM; Mr Santanu Mukherjee, chairman, ASSOCHAM WTO Council; Mr Manasvi Srivastava, co-chair and Ms Sushma Berlia, chairperson, ASSOCHAM Economic Affairs Council.

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