Govt must ask exporters how diplomats can help | Business Standard Column

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The External Affairs Ministry and the Commerce Ministry should interact with the exporters and find out what they actually need from our diplomats abroad and try to meet their specific requirements

TNC Rajagopalan

On Friday, the Prime Minister interacted with the heads of Indian Missions abroad and urged them to understand the needs of the country/region where they are posted very well so that they can act as a bridge for the commerce and industry in India. He asked the Commerce Ministry to put in place a system for regular communication between our exporters and our Missions.

He listened patiently to the inputs and suggestions of the heads of Indian Missions regarding setting sector/region specific trade targets, the need to focus on value addition, quality standards of products, supply chain diversification, ensuring reliability in supplies, improving connectivity and so on. The theme of the event was ‘Local Goes Global – Make in India for the World’.

The Commerce Minister and the External Affairs Minister besides secretaries of more than twenty depart­ments, state government officials and members of Export Promotion Councils and Chambers of Com­merce witnessed the interaction of the Prime minister with the heads of the Indian Missions abroad.

The Prime Minister said that in a world that is shrinking due to physical, technological and financial connectivity, new possibilities are being created around the world for the expansion of our exports and that considering the size of our economy and potential, our manufacturing and service industry base, there is tremendous potential for export growth.

The timing of this interaction is very significant because of the uncertainties about pickup in domestic demand and lurking fears of a third wave of Covid-19 infections that may force partial lockdowns in some parts of the country.

On Thursday, the Governor of Reserve Bank of India warned that although the outlook for aggregate demand is improving, the underlying conditions are still weak. He talked of buoyant external demand that lends critical support to aggregate demand. Strong external demand is an opportunity for India and further policy support should help in capitalizing on this, he said.

Apparently, his message has reached the highest levels and the policy makers keenly appreciate that robust exports can boost economic growth at a time when other factors such as private consumption as well as investment are rather tepid due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since several decades, the Commerce Ministry has been urging the Indian Missions abroad to gather and share market intelligence, give real time information on tenders and even facilitating secretarial and translation services for the exporters and so on. Many Indian Missions used to send information they considered relevant to the Commerce Ministry that were shared with the exporters through the Export Prom­otion Councils.

With the advent of internet, the value of such communications has lost relevance as the exporters started accessing the necessary information on their own.

Today, most exporters are able to gather market intelligence, hunt for buyers abroad, comprehend the trade practices in the other countries, understand the trends and negotiate with the buyers on their own. Moreover, the Export Promotion Councils are also gathering product specific intelligence and sharing with the exporters.

They also give enough information about their members on the websites that can be easily accessed by the buyers abroad. So, the External Affairs Ministry and the Commerce Ministry should interact with the exporters and find out what they actually need from our diplomats abroad and try to meet their specific requirements.

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