US chamber to help sell India abroad
New excise rules irk export units
Centre pushes for jute talks
Breather for small units
UTI venture fund in April

New Delhi, March 18 
Riding high on the Clinton euphoria, American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) has drawn up a five-point special initiative plan to step up foreign direct investment flows into India to meet the annual target of $ 10 billion.

In its first interaction with the media, Amcham president and CEO of Enron Sanjay Bhatnagar said, �The moment is opportune to build the India Inc brand overseas. We want to help the government to provide strategic and marketing expertise to cultivate India�s image abroad.�

The chamber is planning to establish an exchange programme to facilitate visits of senior US-based leadership of Amcham companies in India to meet key persons in the government, industry and media in order to communicate the interest of US businesses in India and vice versa. A year long programme is also on the anvil which will provide testimonials to domestic and international stakeholders to position India�s investment potential at strategic international destinations.

Bhatnagar said Amcham will utilise the other 77 offices across the globe to tap potential investors.

The chamber will also set up a special purpose consultation group to provide the Indian government regular feedback on general and sector-specific issues, including those policies which do not seem to be investor friendly.

The effort has been taken following the recent AT Kearney ranking on most attractive FDI destinations which shows that India has dropped from the sixth to the eleventh place in just six months.

The key area of disappointment, according to the AT Kearney report, has been the obstacles preventing the convergence of India�s intention to act coupled with poor infrastructure and lack of transparency.

US ambassador to India Richard Celeste said, the US was India�s largest trading partner with the balance of trade tilted in India�s favour.

Celeste said Bill Clinton�s visit to India will stimulate �an extraordinary upward lift in business relations� and will act as an energiser of trade links between the two countries.    

New Delhi, March 18 
Export oriented units (EOU) and units in export processing zones (EPZ) are agitated over the recent amendments in the central excise rules which seek to deny Cenvat credit on their limited sales in the domestic market.

Unless corrective measures are taken promptly in the excise clearances from April 1, these firms say they will not be eligible for Cenvat credit, nor will they be able to sell their residual goods in the local market without paying the 16 per cent Cenvat.

The EOUs and EPZ units are allowed to sell 50 per cent of their production in the local market or the domestic tariff area (DTA). The licence to sell in the DTA is granted on the basis actual exports.

However, the sales are allowed only after the full payment of duties of customs and excise duties � an arrangement that makes it appear as if the goods are imported into India and enjoy a 50 per cent concessional duty.

The EOUs and EPZ units are also allowed to sell further quantities without duty concessions. Such sales in the DTA are meant to help the exporting units utilise their capacities in full so that they can compete in the global markets.

As the duties imposed include customs, surcharge, Cenvat and special additional duty (SAD), the effective duty burden � even after a 50 per cent rebate � is far in excess of the Cenvat rate of 16 per cent.

Till now, the countervailing duty (CVD) component � excluding customs duty/surcharge and SAD � was eligible for modvat credit. The budget, and the subsequent excise notification, permits credit against Cenvat on the CVD component, provided Cenvat has been paid.

However, Rule 57 B of Cenvat introduced in the budget under the Central Excise Act does not contain any provision to permit Cenvat credit.

In other words, field officers could simply treat the excise notification permitting Cenvat on CVD component as merely an enabling notification in respect of Cenvat to be availed on inputs from EOUs/EPZ units.

Industry circles say unless the new rule 57 B is amended to specifically permit Cenvat on EPZ/EOU inputs cleared for DTA, their sales in the local market will take a severe beating.    

Calcutta, March 18 
The Union textile ministry has advised the Indian Jute Mills Association (Ijma) to begin talks with trade unions on issues that are the bone of contention between the industry and workers.

The suggestion comes after unions of all 56 jute mills in West Bengal sent notices saying they will go on an indefinite strike from March 22 to press for the settlement of their demands.

With the IJMA refusing to bargain with unions, there is a deadlock between the two sides.

Union textile minister Kansi Ram Rana, who had detailed discussions with jute barons in the city today, asked the IJMA leadership to negotiate with the state government and trade unions to avert the planned indefinite strike.

The industry, Rana told reporters, should negotiate with unions in its own interest. Also, because the stalemate affects the government�s procurement of sacking for packing foodgrains, and the sugar industry which needs AT bags for the same purpose.

�If the mills are on strike, the government will have to relax the mandatory packaging order and allow alternatives to sugar mills. I can not, after all, ask the industry not to pack sugar because jute sacks are not available,�� Rana said.

The minister would request the chief minister Jyoti Basu, who he is scheduled to meet on Sunday, to intervene in the jute industry�s logjam. Basu and Rana will inaugurate a campus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology at Salt Lake.

Rana said the textile ministry was considering the launch of a Jute Technology Mission, similar to the one announced for cotton-growing states last month. The mission on cotton, with a corpus of Rs 593 crore, seeks to improve productivity and quality of the crop so that growers can get better prices. The corpus for jute is yet to be fixed.    

New Delhi, March 18 
The Exim Policy to be announced this month will not phase out quantitative restrictions and put on the open general licence (OGL) list items which are reserved for the small-scale sector.

Instead, these items would be placed on the OGL in the second phase. This is being done to give more breathing time to this sector, according to Vasundhara Raje, minister of state for small scale industries and agro and rural industries. She was speaking at a Ficci conference on the impact of WTO on the small scale sector.    

Hyderabad, March 18 
The Unit Trust of India will launch a venture capital fund for knowledge-based units in April, UTI chairman P.S. Subramanyam said today. The fund will have a rupee component of Rs 140 crore and a dollar fund of $ 100 million. Former Sebi official K.S.C. Rajkumar will take over as the chief general manager of the enterprise.    

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