ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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More of the Same

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The current year’s modification of Exim Policy 1997-2002 had been expected to be radical, removing the last vestiges of protection and heralding the Indian economy’s full exposure to external competition. The policy announced by commerce minister Murasoli Maran has, indeed, removed 715 tariff lines from the ambit of quantitative restrictions on imports but still leaves the Indian economy one of the most protected in the world. This is not just because 100-odd items still remain in the list of restricted imports. A host of non-tariff barriers introduced by the latest modification of the exim policy – canalisation, quality standards, procedural requirements including multistage certification and restriction of imports to designated ports – combine with the high level of tariffs prescribed by the finance minister in his budget to give India this dubious distinction.

The exim policy introduces, apart from non-tariff barriers to imports, some new export promotion measures. One is a new thrust to agricultural exports, for which special agricultural export zones have been envisaged. The setting up of such special export zones for agricultural products has been sought to be encouraged by offering various duty concessions both for those who set up such zones and for those who set up shop in the zones. The policy also announces a new market access initiative, under which the government would assist industry in research and development, market research, specific market and product studies, warehousing and retail marketing infrastructure in select countries and direct market promotion activities through media advertising and buyer-seller meets. The other highlights of the policy are involvement of the states in export promotion and extension and liberalisation of existing export promotion schemes, most of which seek to liberate exports – and exporters alone among all producers – from the stifling grip of protectionist policy by exempting them from duties or giving them duty concessions. The policy offers some procedural liberalisation as well.

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