India will maintain export volumes at $160 bn: Anand Sharma

May 29th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) India will maintain its exports at $160 billion for this current fiscal, as steps will be unveiled in the upcoming budget and the trade policy review to help the sector, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said here Friday.
He also said that India was ready to ink a host of pacts, including a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and economic cooperation agreements with South Korea and Nepal.

“We will shortly approach the cabinet on these free trade agreements,” Sharma told reporters, soon after taking charge of his newly assigned ministries at Udyog Bhavan.

The minister, who was earlier minister of state for external affairs and then also for information and broadcasting, said the country’s export performance was, indeed, laudable given that the global economy had shrunk since last year.

“I am confident we will be able to manage at least $160 billion.”

He said the effects of global meltdown on the Indian economy were comparatively lower. “In fact, there are signs - positive signs - of a revival of industry, including expansion that would be desirable for manufacturing sector.”

Sharma also spoke of how special economic zones in the country had become a success, employing 750,000 people directly and indirectly, and exports growing at 50 percent last fiscal.

He said as many as 568 such zones had been approved, of which 315 had also been notified, attracting investments worth Rs.1,000 billion ($20 billion). But he did not subscribe to the view that the policy had many flaws.

“Our special economic zone policy has so far taken care to protect the interests of people,” he said, adding: “Our policy intervention has been to identify with the working class.”

Sharma, for the moment, ruled out any review of the foreign direct investment policy, saying: “What we have on the ground is a well-considered decision. There is no need for a review.”

There were hopes that with Left parties out of its way, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will review the cap on foreign equity in sectors like retail, insurance and aviation.

The minister said another positive outcome for India, in spite of the slowdown globally, was the continuing inflow of money from overseas both in the form of direct investment and from foreign institutional investors.

“Our foreign direct investment inflows stood at Rs.27 billion last year, against $24 billion in the year before. These are healthy signs.”

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