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Commerce Ministry working to remove trade barriers, boost exports in sub-Saharan Africa & Gulf nations

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NEW DELHI : The Commerce Ministry is working to address issues related to non-tariff barriers and market access for domestic products in sub-Saharan African countries like  Nigeria,  Ethiopia,  Ghana  and Gulf nations to boost India’s exports, an official said.

The official said meetings have been held with Indian missions of the sub-Saharan African countries with which India has significant bilateral trade.

The major trading partners of India in that region in 2022-23 were South Africa (total trade USD 18.9 billion, exports USD 8.5 billion); Nigeria (USD 11.85 billion, exports USD 5.15 billion); Togo (USD 6.6 billion, exports USD 6 billion), and Tanzania (USD 6.5 billion, exports USD 3.93 billion).

The other countries were Mozambique (USD 5 billion, exports USD 2.5 billion); Angola (USD 4.22 billion, exports USD 621 million); and Kenya (USD 3.4 billion, exports USD 3.2 billion).

“A virtual meeting with Indian Mission of top 10 countries (bilateral trade-wise) in sub-Saharan African region was held in September to discuss the overall economic and commercial relations with those countries, export performance and non-tariff barriers which are acting as impediments to bilateral trade and enhance exports,” the official said.

A similar meeting was also held with Indian Missions in GCC countries. GCC is a union of six countries in the Gulf region — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. The council is the largest trading bloc of India.

The bilateral trade in 2022-23 with these countries stood at USD 52.76 billion with Saudi Arabia; USD 84.8 billion with the UAE; USD 18.77 billion with Qatar; USD 13.8 billion with Kuwait; and USD 12.4 billion with Oman.

The ministry has asked exporters to focus on potential key sectors such as food, electronics and engineering, and major markets to boost exports.

It has suggested focus on organising fairs and exhibitions at global scale.

India’s merchandise exports rose 6.21 per cent to USD 33.57 billion in October this year, even as the trade deficit touched a record high of USD 31.46 billion during the month.

Imports increased 12.3 per cent to USD 65.03 billion during the month due to a jump in gold imports.

Cumulatively, exports during the April-October period this fiscal contracted 7 per cent to USD 244.89 billion, while imports fell 8.95 per cent to USD 391.96 billion.

The trade deficit during the seven-month period was USD 147.07 billion against USD 167.14 billion in the corresponding period last year.

Think-tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) in its report, released in August, has said India needs to act in a fast-track manner for removal of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) being faced by domestic exporters in different countries to achieve one trillion dollar outbound shipment target for goods by 2030.

Key Indian exports that face high barriers include ceramic tiles in Egypt; and microbiological regents in Saudi Arabia, the report added.

Most Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) are domestic rules created by countries with an aim to protect human, animal or plant health and environment.

NTM may be technical measures like regulations, standards, testing, certification, pre-shipment inspection or non-technical measures like quotas, import licensing, subsidies, government procurement restrictions.

When NTMs become arbitrary, beyond scientific justification, they create hurdles for trade and are called NTBs.

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