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Life easier for exporters

New Delhi, April 8: Commerce minister Kamal Nath today announced fresh incentives for exporters and simplified procedures to reduce the paperwork related to exports.

The minister has raised the export target for this fiscal to $92 billion from $85 billion due to a 34 per cent growth rate recorded in 2004-05.

The liberalised incentives will be available to the advance licensing scheme, export promotion capital goods (EPCG) scheme and export oriented units (EOUs).

The scheme also has a sectoral thrust covering manufacturing, agriculture, plantations, marine products, handicrafts, the retail sector and gems and jewellery. It has been introduced as an annual supplement to the five-year foreign trade policy (2004-09).

The advanced licensing scheme for annual requirement has been extended to all exporters having some 'past performance'. Earlier, the option was limited to the bigger players only. The value of the licence has also been raised to 300 per cent of the f..b. (free on board) value of exports from 200 per cent earlier.

Clubbing of advance licences for export regularisation has been allowed even for licences pertaining to the 1992-97 period. Provisions relating to bank guarantees and transfer of duty free material from one unit of the company to another have been eased.

The new scheme states that no safeguard or anti-dumping duty will be levied on inputs under advance licence for deemed export supplies to competitive bidding projects.

It has liberalised the concessions under the EPCG scheme, which allows exporters to import capital goods at a concessional duty of 5 per cent so that they can increase production. In return, they have to undertake a certain level of export obligation over a period of time.

It provides for waiving the balance obligation for exporters completing 75 per cent of their work in half the prescribed export obligation period under the EPCG scheme. The step has been taken to accelerate the rate of growth of exports. Reduced export obligation and enhanced time has been made available for imports by the agricultural sector under the EPCG scheme.

Similarly, a reduced export obligation at six times the duty saved against the normal eight times for imports made by the small scale industry sector has been put in place.

DEPB scheme

The minister said the duty entitlement passbook (DEPB) scheme will continue in its present form and be replaced six months down the line by a new incentive scheme that is being formulated.

He also announced that the Prime Minister's office had issued a directive to the revenue authorities not to collect any tax from exporters on DEPB earnings until his economic advisory council presented its view within a month.

Under the new norms, EOUs will be allowed to claim income-tax exemption on proceeds realised within 12 months from the date of export. Capital goods can now be transferred and samples loaned to other units. The de-bonding procedure for EOUs has been simplified. A self-assessment procedure along with time-bound disposal of applications of exiting EOUs will be put in place.

In order to reduce congestion at major ports, the facility for adjusting rupee earnings from handling charges against the discharge of export obligations under EPCG has been extended to minor ports, inland container depots and container freight stations.

As a first step towards simplification, a single common application form called the 'Aayat Niryaat' form, comprising 50 pages, has been introduced to replace the 120-page set that was being used until now. A web interface has been put in place for on-line filing by exporters and retrieval of documents by the licensing authorities.

Inter-state council

Nath today announced the setting up of an inter-state council to boost international trade. The minister said, 'It is hoped that the council would provide an appropriate institutionalised dialogue mechanism on the subject.'

'Some states have already formulated export policies recognising the need to focus on the removal of impediments in promoting trade, employment and economic activity. But a lot needs to be done to co-ordinate this,' he said.

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