Accompanied by former Minister for Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu, Goyal said he was humbled to step into his shoes and would try to do his best to take the ministry’s work forward. He added that he would study “all issues” related to India’s trade and industry, prepare himself to deal with issues that required immediate attention and seek Prabhu’s guidance in performing his duties.
Goyal held several ministerial posts in the previous NDA government, first as the Minister of State for Power, New and Renewable Energy, Coal and Mines, and later as the Union Minister of Railways. In 2018, he temporarily took additional charge as Finance Minister during Arun Jaitley’s absence due to medical issues.
The Commerce Ministry has its work cut out in the coming months, with issues such as a subdued outlook by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on global trade, a widened trade deficit and a multitude of challenges on the bilateral and multilateral fronts confronting the new National Democratic Alliance government.
A downward slide in Foreign Direct Investment inflows and flagging merchandise exports are other areas of concern. Over the last 5 years, the previous NDA government focused on increasing exports, including through identifying newer markets it could tap. By the end of the 2018-19 financial year, the Commerce Ministry announced that India had achieved a record high of around $331.02 billion in merchandise exports. Yet, it reportedly missed its own internal goal of crossing $350 billion. The country also experienced a high trade deficit for merchandise goods at $176.42 billion and an overall trade deficit of $95.85 billion for that period.
India had also taken measures to improve its ease of doing business ranking, managing to secure 77th position towards the end of last year, up from over 140 in 2015. It further tried to encourage foreign investment through schemes like ‘Make in India’ and by relaxing rules for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in several sectors.
Yet, recent government data shows that FDI fell for the first time in six years, dropping around 1 per cent to $44.4 billion in the 2018-19 financial year. The government has reportedly begun work on boosting exports as part of its 100-day agenda, considering measures like a new major export promotion scheme and pushing exports through e-commerce. India exported products valued at $1.2 billion through e-commerce in the last fiscal.
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