India will be global hub for shopping: Nath

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, April 9:

India is on way to becoming the preferred global hub not just for outsourcing but also for a wide range of activities, including retail shopping, Indian commerce minister Kamal Nath has said. “I want India to emerge as a favourite global hub for shopping like Singapore and Thailand. Our retail sector should be able to compete with the best in the world,” the minister said outlining a thrust area of the Foreign Trade Policy.

“Retail trade is a large employment generator. There is a 24 per cent growth in the sector. I want to help this sector emerge as the best in the world,” Kamal Nath said a day after announcing the revised trade policy for 2004-09. He said the amended Foreign Trade Policy gives duty concessions to the domestic retail trade industry to buy equipment like escalators and modern gadgetries, seen in shopping malls the world over, as a first step towards allowing foreign investment in the sector. “Let our domestic retail trade sector get modern equipment, develop capacities and a brand so that they can compete with the best. I want foreign investment in this area to add to the capacities and not displace the domestic sector.” According to him, only two percent of India’s retail trade industry was in the organised

sector and 52 per cent was in the subsistence business, or mom-and-pop shops.

“We cannot displace them.” Kamal Nath said the United Progressive Alliance government was hoping to open the retail trade sector to foreign investment in the next few months. “I am holding wide consultations. A policy will be evolved over the next few months.” The minister said that the Foreign Trade Policy also gives a big push to the farm sector, plantations and small-scale industries, while simplifying various procedures to reduce transaction costs and time. “The cess imposed by various commodity boards on export of farm and plantation commodities has been removed. This was a major handicap and irritant. It eroded the competitiveness of our export sector,” he said.

“The cess on rice, for example, had been imposed several years back to generate funds to that we can fight the patents case on Basmati rice. It was evident that these levies had outlived their utility.” He said the package for marine sector was primarily aimed at offsetting the damage wrecked by the December 2004 tsunami. “The fishing community has suffered a great deal. The special package is tailor-made for them.”