FE CFO Awards: Will engage from a position of strength, says Goyal

Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Textiles, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal on Friday strongly rebutted the notion of a slight protectionist twist in India’s foreign trade outlook and asserted that the country was actually looking for much greater engagement with the world markets with “definitive offensive interests”.

The country’s combined goods-and-services exports would cross the $2-trillion mark in a decade or earlier, enabling it to blossom into the ‘big league’ of world trade, he said.

Speaking at the fifth edition of the FE CFO Awards here, Goyal said the flurry of free trade agreements being signed by New Delhi with its leading trade partners bore testimony to the country’s commitment to being an integral part of a global trading system so long as it was “rule-based, transparent and fair”. “It is (not going to be) an India which closes its doors to the rest of the world, but one that would engage with the world from a position of strength,” he said.

He, however, made it clear the Modi government won’t reconsider its decision to pull out of the China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as Beijing’s trade and pricing policies remained opaque.

The recent Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE, India’s first shot at a bilateral trade deal in over a decade, would be followed by an array of deals with the whole of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Australia, Canada, the UK, European Union and Israel, he said.

Terming the India-UAE CEPA an ‘excellent pact’, he said, its full text would be made public in a couple of days. “We are emboldened with the success of (UAE pact) and it will help expand bilateral trade from around $65 billion now to $100 billion very soon,” he said, pointing out that the UAE would serve as a gateway for India to not only West Asia but also Africa and some European countries. India was poised to take huge strides towards Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance), thanks to assorted policy steps meant for improving the scale and competitiveness of the Indian industry, he said.

“No country in the world has achieved sustainable economic growth without international engagement. We are, therefore, keen to expand our footprint in the developed world.” he said. The minister, however, stressed that the interests of India’s small-scale industries and the farm sector would need to be safeguarded when multilateral/bilateral trade decisions were taken.

Goyal said the country may end up with goods exports of $410 billion in the current fiscal, while services exports too would be a record $250 billion. fe

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