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Contribute to debate on trade issues: Nirmala Sitharaman to IIFT

Speaking at the 50th convocation of IIFT, the minister said it is time now for such centres to be far more proactive, assertive and contribute in trade-related matters.

PTI|
Updated: Apr 19, 2016, 03.19 PM IST
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Speaking at the 50th convocation of IIFT, the minister said it is time now for such centres to be far more proactive, assertive and contribute in trade-related matters.
Speaking at the 50th convocation of IIFT, the minister said it is time now for such centres to be far more proactive, assertive and contribute in trade-related matters.
NEW DELHI: Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today asked institutes like IIFT to meaningfully contribute to the debate over free trade agreements and also suggest ways to enhance India's trade competitiveness.

Speaking at the 50th convocation of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), the minister said it is time now for such centres to be far more proactive, assertive and contribute in trade-related matters.

"Give inputs to the existing narrative of what is happening in the global trade or international business... get into the details and see what we can do in the next few years. Tell us how India is positioned and how Indian industry is positioned in terms of linking with the global value chains," she said.

The minister requested the faculty and the students to contribute more on these issues.

"Activities of IIFT or the Centre for WTO Studies, Centre for SMEs should make a proactive contribution... it is this which is critical to policy-making and with due respect, it is this which I find somewhat absent," she added.

The remarks assume significance as the country's exports slumped to a 5-year low of $261 billion in 2015-16. The exports have been in the negative zone since December 2014.

The commerce ministry has recently held a brain-storming session with experts and academicians on exports and free trade agreements.

Sitharaman clarified that the country's exports are falling in value terms, not in volume.

"The narrative is constantly that why exports are falling for 15th or 16th month consecutively. Demand is slowing, as a result our exports are falling, but can this narrative be more mature... what exactly is contributing to the quantum fall?" she wondered.

"Can we look at why the FTAs are really not contributing to India... the narrative is going on without much of a substance... MBAs and PhD (students) should add to the debate," the minister added.

For 2015-16, exports fell 15.8 per cent to a 5-year low of $261.13 billion due to weak global demand and low commodity prices.

Imports went down by 15.28 per cent to $379.6 billion in 2015-16, leaving a trade deficit of $118.45 billion. The trade gap stood at $137.69 billion in 2014-15.

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