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Trade and External Sector
One of the factors responsible for the tremendous growth of the Indian economy has been its booming foreign trade.

Although, last year's global downturn had hit the investment scenario in India as well, investor sentiment in India improved significantly in the first quarter of 2009, according to a survey conducted by Dutch financial services firm ING. With foreign assets growing by more than 100 percent annually in recent years, Indian multinational enterprises (MNEs) have become significant investors in global business markets and India is rapidly staking a claim to being a true global business power, according to a survey by the Indian School of Business and the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment.

India's foreign exchange reserves increased by US$ 4.2 billion to US$ 255.9 billion for the week ended May 8, 2009, according to figures released in the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) weekly statistical supplement.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) pumped in US$ 23.9 billion during April 2008-January 2009 compared with US$ 14.4 billion in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, witnessing a growth of 65 percent, according to the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion.

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have made investments of around US$ 2 billion as of May 14, 2009, including a record single day net purchase of US$ 824.72 million on May 13, 2009, according to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Indian corporate have raised US$ 1.11 billion during March 2009-more than double the mop-up in February-through external commercial borrowings (ECBs) both in automatic and approval route.
Estimated Capital Inflows in 2008-09
According to the economic outlook for 2008-09 released by the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, total capital inflows in 2008-09 are estimated at US$ 70.9 billion. Aggregate FDI inflows are estimated at US$ 19.7 billion and portfolio inflows are likely to touch US$ 4.1 billion. Net inflows on account of loans are expected to be US$ 34 billion. Net banking capital inflow and inflows under "other capital" are likely to be more than adequate to finance the enlarged Capital Account Deficit (CAD), leaving about US$ 29 billion to accrue in the foreign exchange reserves of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
FDI inflows during April 2008-January 2009 stood at US$ 23.9 billion compared with US$ 14.4 billion in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, witnessing a growth of 65 percent.

India achieved a stunning 85.1 percent increase in foreign direct investment flows in 2008, the highest increase across all countries, even as global flows declined by 14.5 percent, as per an UNCTAD study. The study estimates that the FDI investments into India went up from US$ 25.1 billion in 2007 to US$ 46.5 billion in 2008. India's achievement in mobilising FDI is all the more significant because the inflows into the developed countries have declined by 25.3 percent in 2008.

Mauritius has become India's biggest investment partner in the new millennium, replacing the US. Its share in India's aggregate FDI inflow has increased dramatically from about 19 percent in 2000 to 43.7 percent last year. Mauritius accounted for about half of India's total FDI inflow in 2007.
At a time when the world is going through a turbulent time, India's export sector has shown a growth rate of 20.3 percent in the first 11 months of 2008-09. India's exports increased by 17.5 percent during April–December 2008 as against 21.9 percent in April–December 2007.

Exports from special economic zones (SEZs) rose 33 percent during the year to end-March 2009. Exports from such tax-free manufacturing hubs totaled US$ 18.16 billion last year up from US$ 13.60 billion a year before.

The competitive advantage that India enjoys across a range of sectors has led to rapid increase in India's exports.

  • India's gem and jewellery exports posted a modest growth of 1.45 percent during 2008-09 at US$ 21.1 billion.
  • Iron ore exports increased 17 percent to 12.6 million tonnes in February 2009 from 10.8 million tonnes in the same month a year ago.
  • Pharmaceutical exports from the country are expected to buck the downturn and post a 13 percent increase in overseas sales.
  • Indian spices exports for the first eleven months of the current financial year has crossed the US$ 1 billion-mark despite the slowdown in global trade.
  • Indian apparel exports grew at 11 percent at US$ 972 million in January 2009, compared with US$ 871 million in December 2008, according to the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC).
  • The exports of passenger cars during the first 10 month of the financial year 2008-09 grew by 63.01 percent to 2,71,999 units, compared with 1,66,859 units in the year-ago period, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

External Sector
India's Balance of Payments (BoP) accounts for July-September 2008 reiterates India's growing trade interactions with the world. On BoP, India's merchandise exports registered a growth of 24.6 percent in July-September 2008, as compared with 16.7 percent in the same period of the previous fiscal. Import payments, on BoP basis, recorded 45 percent growth in July-September 2008 against 22.2 percent in the same period of the previous fiscal.

According to the UK-based investment bank Barclays Research, the capital account in the BoP is likely to turn surplus from deficit in the second half of calendar year 2009 as growth and global liquidity improve. In addition, remittances are also expected to accelerate. Even the trade balance will improve as the oil import bill is set to dip and on improved outlook for exports. Barclays has revised its BoP forecast for FY10 to US$ 44.4 billion from US$ 3.4 billion.

Gross invisible receipts grew by 18.8 percent during April–December 2008. Net invisibles, viz. gross invisible receipts (minus) payments increased by 28.1 percent in the period, primarily led by receipts under private transfers and software services.

India's trade relations with several countries also improved significantly.

  • Bilateral trade between India and China had touched US$ 38.7 billion in 2007 and according to estimates, is set to achieve the target of US$ 60 billion by 2010.
  • Japan has agreed to provide loans to the tune of US$ 1.42 billion for four major infrastructure projects. The projects that will get Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan include Delhi Mass Rapid Transport System (US$ 806.31 million).
  • Russia has expressed willingness to strengthen its trade with India in sectors like banking, IT, telecom, tourism and space, and, thereby, double the trade volume to US$ 10 billion by 2010 from the present US$ 5 billion.
  • The US$ 676.7 million trade between Ireland and India is expected to surge by 25 percent in 2009 as against the 13 percent growth it recorded in 2008, according to Ireland's ambassador in India, Mr Kenneth Thompson.
  • The India-Mercosur Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA), which is likely to be inked by June 2009, will provide a significant boost to bilateral trade and investment flows. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are the four countries of South America that together constitute the Mercosur bloc.
  • India and Syria have revised their double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA). The revised agreement has come into effect from April 1 in India and from January 1, 2009 in Syria, a Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) release said.
  • Australia is keen to expand its bilateral trade and investment ties with India in the areas of food and beverages, travel and tourism, automotive sector and aerospace industry, according to Michael Carter, Counselor and Commercial, Australian Trade Commission.
  • To capitalize on the strengths of India, which tops the chart of 10 most attractive destinations for offshoring and IT, Chile signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with NASSCOM on March 20, 2009. Chile also hopes to double bilateral trade with India in the next five years.

Foreign Trade Policy
The government unveiled an interim foreign trade policy, which offers sops to exports in leather, textile, gems and jewellery and food product sectors. The sops include a special package of US$ 64.5 million for the leather and textile sectors, removal of import curbs on gems and jewellery, relaxation in export obligations and a 5 percent duty credit for the export of handmade carpet under the Focus Product Scheme, against 3.5 percent given earlier.

The last remaining differences between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on merchandise goods have been ironed out and the deal is ready for signing. Government officials said the ASEAN FTA, as well as a similar pact with South Korea involving free trade of goods, services and investment, could be signed on the sidelines of the summit of ASEAN nations, scheduled in October 2009.
Government Initiatives

The government has taken several measures to boost exports during times of a global meltdown.

  • The RBI has further eased the external commercial borrowing (ECB) norms for banks to issue 'no objection' under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.
  • The new foreign trade policy, which is being prepared by the Commerce Ministry, will be aligned with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) after April 1, 2010, only after implementation of this indirect tax mechanism.
  • The Election Commission (EC) has cleared the government's decision to allow zero duty import of raw and refined sugar under the open general License scheme.
  • The government has slapped an anti-dumping duty on imports of polyester yarn from China, Vietnam and Thailand. The duty to be levied will range from US$ 1,112 to US$ 527 per tonne and would be effective till September 25, 2009.
  • Giving a major relief to the Indian shrimp exporters, the US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has withdrawn the customs bond requirement imposed in 2004. This will be effective from April 1, 2009.
  • The government has allowed companies located in special economic zones (SEZs) to claim service tax refund for services availed outside the tax-free export zones.
  • A notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has said that import of toys from China would be allowed if it was accompanied by a certificate that the toys conformed to certain international quality standards.
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