Goyal had told leaders from Asean in July that India’s domestic industry was not convinced that the proposed
would create a “win-win situation for all” by ensuring balanced outcomes for both goods and services.
A report on the RCEP, commissioned by the Confederation of Indian Industry and submitted to the government, has recommended that products — the trade of which is dominated by China — should not be included for tariff reductions under the RCEP. Many ministries, including agriculture, steel, chemicals and MSME, among others, have also opposed the deal.
“Looking at the past examples of other countries which have used FTAs very efficiently and effectively, my own sense is that we can also use these extremely well," Goyal said. He added the government was also looking at domestic measures to ensure the industry was competitive and could take advantage of the concessions allowed to them under the FTAs.
These measures include mega sessions with exporters that teach how to use FTAs properly. According to a study by the NITI Aayog, the utilisation rate of trade deals by Indian exporters is very low (between 5 and 25 per cent). Goyal also trained his guns on companies that have not taken advantage of the deals either due to lack of knowledge or effort, or due to the “comfort of a protected domestic market”.
The minister squarely blamed the earlier governments for not being able to negotiate better trade deals for India, which has led to a situation where the industry has not been able to benefit from FTAs. The Asean-India FTA did not have an automatic review mechanism built into it, Goyal said.
“After almost 10 years of implementation, imports have grown faster than exports. Indian industry also had to suffer from the circumvention of rules of origin, across products,” T V Narendran, CEO & managing director of Tata Steel, said.