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The last month has been one of frenetic activities. At our last Board meeting on 31 May 2018, we discussed large number of issues pertaining to the engineering exporting sector as also EEPC India. To follow up on some of the major ones, I and my colleagues met Mr PK Das, Member, Customs, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). The Joint Secretary, Customs also joined during the meeting. While congratulating the CBIC for the Second Fortnightly refunds camp being organised all over the country, we discussed the many issues that our members have been representing to us regarding their GST refund difficulties. The fact that many exporters had, due to lack of information, taken the higher duty drawback in the transitional period of July-September 2017, needed special policy dispensation and separate mechanism through which the IGST refund could be paid/adjusted was something we urged Mr Das. We have since separately represented to the Chairperson, CBIC. We will pursue this with the new Chairperson, who has taking over this month. Among other issues, the nil IGST amount shown in shipping bills despite it being paid; the problem of codes in LCL shipments; the PFMS error issue in the Customs scrolls; and the differing interpretation of the ITC refund formula for LUT-based shipments were also raised and a non-paper given to Mr Das.

The other major issue that has been impacting the engineering exporting community has been the northward-bound steel prices. This is something we have been pursuing with the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Steel, and the DGFT and we have met the relevant officials as also represented in the Steel Consumers’ Council Meeting in Bengaluru on 29 June 2018 where we presented our views before the Minister of Steel and the Minister of State for Steel, as well as senior officials from the Steel Ministry. We do hope some moderation of steel prices will happen and the Ministry of Steel will use its persuasive powers to rein in steel prices as well as to enhance supplies to the MSME sector. In fact, at the Steel Consumers’ Council meeting we stressed the need for quality steel in the domestic market and requested the Steel Ministry to advise the Department of Revenue to do away the ‘Pre-Import’ condition in the Advance Authorisation scheme so that our exporters do not face the problem of meeting the international steel standards of their respective buyers.

It would be a remiss if I do not congratulate the Department of Commerce for the Foundation Stone laying of the new Vanijya Bhavan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with his colleagues, the Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu, the Minister of State for Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Mr CR Chaudhary, the Minister of State (i/c) of Housing and Urban Affairs, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, and senior government officials. The construction will cost Rs226 crore and will be a paperless, state-of-the-art office where bilateral and multilateral negotiations can be held.

Talking of bilateral and multilateral negotiations, one cannot but touch upon the global trade war initiated by the US Administration. India, unfortunately, has become entangled with the US imposing 25 percent tariffs on our steel products and 10 percent on aluminium products while the GSP benefit is yet to be extended to us. We have, in turn, responded with similar tariffs on a range of products. Further, the US has put pressure on us with respect to our oil imports from Iran and this will have a negative impact on our engineering goods exports to that country. This kind of tit-fortat trade action, we thought, had become a thing of the past, but it does seem that neo-mercantilism is, once again, back in global policy circles. As the US will soon realise, such high tariff on critical imports for their own country will be self-defeating and, while it may benefit a few segments of their domestic industry, it will not only be inflationary but also lead to overall job losses in their own country. Perhaps, the focus is not so much on trade but on who takes the lead in Technology and clearly the West doesn’t want China to become the Technology leader in the rest of the 21st century and thereafter.

Be that as it may, India will have to do much strategic thinking as also in carving out its own space, based on its strength in the global comity of nations. I am sure our leadership will not be found wanting in this challenging task.

I do hope that our readers will enjoy this edition of the magazine and provide us with their valuable comments, as always.

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