Connectivity provides a stronger foundation for exports: Harsh Shringla

Topics Coronavirus | Exports | Migration

The pandemic has pointed out the need to strengthen the existing healthcare infrastructure and systems in India
Our diplomatic Missions, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, are also exploring sourcing and export opportunities in various countries, and guiding our exporters by putting potential suppliers and buyers in touch with our Export Promotion Council (EPCs) and industry associations. Accordingly, lists of product lines where Indian exporters can fill in the supply gaps to the world have been identified, with the request to our Missions to arrange B2B meetings of the potential buyers, in these countries with our trade bodies. The EPCs/industry bodies have also been requested to get in touch with our Missions directly and seek B2B meetings both to hedge the risks of supply disruptions and, wherever possible, to fill in the supply gaps. Support is also being sought through ministries and agencies of the government in expeditiously reaching out to their industry stakeholders and ramping up production in areas where we need to fill supply gaps, both in new markets and existing ones.

Needless to add, this is an ongoing exercise. The recommendations being made by our Missions are continuously taken into account by the Government, and our policies are adjusted accordingly. In addition, we are in the process of identifying industries and businesses looking for alternative manufacturing locations. The idea is to provide such industries with a compatible business environment and a robust domestic demand which will aid investments into the country and generate local employment.

Let me also share with you a few ideas which could aid in restoring economic growth in the medium to long-term:

Connectivity initiatives in the neighbourhood under our Lines of Credits can act as force multipliers to accelerate regional growth and development, promote people-to-people contact and encourage trade and commerce. Several cross-border connectivity projects in roads, railways, inland waterways, shipping, energy and aviation under Indian assistance are already under implementation, especially with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Enhanced connectivity provides a stronger foundation for pushing exports of goods, services, standards, and norms.

Our companies should participate in projects financed under Indian development assistance. These projects help successfully showcase India’s expertise in project planning, design and execution, and assist Indian industry in projecting itself as viable and technologically sound partners of developing countries in diverse sectors.

The pandemic has highlighted the global shortage of trained personnel in various sectors, especially in health care and the digital domain. To promote employment opportunities abroad for Indian nationals, bilateral Migration and Mobility Partnerships and Social Security Agreements are important as they facilitate orderly migration of workers and ensure seamless social security coverage and avoid double payments by Indian workers abroad.

We are sharing details of skill sets of Indian expatriates returning under the Vande Bharat Mission with the Ministry of Skill Development.

We need to focus on the promotion of the 3Ts — trade, tourism and technology. I have already referred to the efforts to diversify our supply chains, promote foreign investment flows, and boost Indian exports. Growth in tourism in the current scenario depends on revival of confidence in travel. In the intervening period, we could proactively promote virtual tourism, so that there is a real market after travel restrictions are lifted and confidence is restored. There will also be an increased focus on promotion of medical, including AYUSH, tourism. 
Identification and promotion of frontline technologies, linking our start-ups with the foreign markets, their registration on various stock exchanges etc. will be important enablers of innovation and economic growth.

The pandemic has pointed out the need to strengthen the existing healthcare infrastructure and systems in India. Building preparedness to deal with such pandemics in the future will necessitate channeling of our resources to the healthcare sector, in the near and medium to long term, for the development of hospitals, emergency rooms, provision of equipment and supplies (PPEs, ventilators, etc), and training of healthcare professionals. This will expectedly create opportunities for businesses and industries in this sector. Apart from this, we need to:

Utilise the ramping up of domestic capacity and production of PPEs, ventilators, masks, testing kits, etc. as a part of our export promotion efforts; these products can be customised and standardised as per the global standards and requirements;
Strengthen our position in the pharma sector for generics, APIs, biologics, clinical research and equipment, and ensure that our products meet global standards just as our pharma has done with numerous globally certified manufacturing facilities;

Facilitate a focused and concerted effort for collaborations in digital innovations in health (research, diagnostics, monitoring, epidemiology and insurance), in partnership with our industry, MSMEs and start-ups;

Renew our efforts towards regulatory clearances for modern and traditional Indian medicines;

Innovate to further consolidate India’s commercial presence in vaccines — we currently lead the world in supply of vaccines;

Focus on consolidating our presence in the generics segment, and enhance resources and focus on new drug development;

Strengthen the diagnostics sector to bring it on par with our drugs/vaccines industry.

We have to proactively develop export markets for agricultural products due to disruption in supply chains and the intent of many countries to diversify supply lines for ensuring their food security. This will also require investments in supply and cold chain. Some significant steps in this sector have already been announced by the Finance Minister...

... We have repeatedly emphasised that every challenge comes with a hidden opportunity. This is not the first global disruption we are facing and this definitely won’t be the last.

Edited excerpts from an address by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on ‘New World Order Post COVID-19’ to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, in New Delhi on May 20

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