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Since 1st March, 1999
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I have no doubt that simplifications and liberalization in earlier exim policies contributed substantially to this reduction. However, the fact remains that transaction cost levels in India still remain at unacceptably high levels. This seriously detracts from the competitiveness of our exports. Recognizing this, we have taken on board the specific suggestions received from the exporters in the open houses to effect further simplification. As part of these efforts, we are now giving high priority to the implementation of the electronic data interchanges programme covering all the major community partners in the export process in order to minimize transaction time and to reduce discretion. We are now aiming at providing on-line approvals. This can be possible only with the full implementation of the EDI programme by all the community partners as per the agreed schedule. We shall try to ensure that this takes place.

In recognition of the importance of the special economic zone scheme to our strategy for accelerated export growth and the contribution of 100 per cent export oriented units to the export performance of the country, we are taking a major step in the simplification and codification of rules, regulations and procedures applicable to SEZ and EOU units. All these rules and regulations are being put in one place. This should greatly facilitate both potential investors as well as existing units in these sectors.

There are certain procedural simplifications and flexibility which are being introduced in the new policy. As part of our efforts at reduction of transaction cost, we are introducing annual advance licence facility for status holders so that they can plan for their imports of raw material and components on an annual basis and take advantage of bulk purchases. Similarly, we are introducing diamond dollar account for the convenience of gem and jewellery exporters.

Along with the promotion of agro and service exports, which I have already covered, we intend to give special focus to certain sectors of merchandise export which hold the potential for accelerated growth. These sectors are textiles, particularly garments, auto components, gems and jewellery, drugs and pharmaceuticals and chemicals. We will work closely with the concerned administrative ministries and the industry not only to remove any possible hurdles in the way of accelerated growth of exports but also undertake measures for vigorous trade promotion to boost export of these items.

You may recollect that my esteemed predecessor in his address on the occasion of announcement of exim policy 2002-2007, had mentioned “Focus: Latin American countries” and “Focus: Africa” initiatives for the diversification of markets for Indian goods and services. I am happy to say that these initiatives have led to creation of awareness of the members of the non-traditional market for the Indian goods amongst Indian exporters and consequently led to increase in Indian exports in these regions. The “Focus: Africa” programme was launched on April 1, 2002 to cover countries in sub-Saharan African regions covering the first phase of seven countries mainly Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana. India’s trade with the sub-Saharan region was US $ 3.63 billion in 1996-97 which grew to US $ 4.2 billion in 2001-02 with a growth rate of 16 per cent. In view of this, I am happy to announce that in addition to the seven countries included in “Focus: Africa”, we are extending the programme to the remaining 11 countries of the region where India has diplomatic missions. These are Angola, Botswana, Ivory-Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe and six countries of North Africa namely Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. The “Focus: Africa” programme will now cover 24 countries of the African continent with effect from 1.4.2003.

My predecessor had announced that we propose to launch a “Focus CIS” programme in view of our traditional ties with commonwealth of independent states. It took a little time in getting the programme sanctioned. I am happy to announce that we are launching “Focus: CIS” programme with effect from 1st April, 2003.

I shall end here by stating that our approach would be to relentlessly pursue the goal of making India a significant player in the world market by leveraging India’s undoubted strength namely intelligence, innovation and entrepreneurship of every Indian. This will be our national objective. We, in the ministry of commerce and industry, shall play the lead role in coordinating with other ministries of the government of India and the state governments as well as the exporters to succeed in this national endeavour.

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