Not every FTA is seen as beneficial to India, says Sitharaman

The Centre is in the process of reviewing all free trade agreements (FTAs) and special economic zones (SEZ) to see if they have provided the benefits for which they were created, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge) Nirmala Sitharaman said here on Saturday.

The government was also looking at changes to the Companies Act to ease the process of business-doing in the country. A meeting with stakeholders to analyse what such changes could be will be held by the Corporate Affairs Secretary in New Delhi next Saturday.

Addressing a press conference here, where she met representatives of industry associations, Ms. Sitharaman said not every FTA was seen as beneficial to India.

“In some cases, I believe that we have leveraged the FTAs lesser than the other side. So, we want to understand what the status of each of these FTAs is. The Ministry will soon come out with a report on it,” the Minister pointed out. On SEZs, she said there was a need to understand why they could not provide the impetus to economic growth to the extent that they were expected to.

“A complete review of the SEZs is taking place as we speak. What are the difficulties? Why are they not vibrant? Why are they not as buoyant as they should be? Why some of them are not giving us the returns that they expected to give us? These are question of importance,” she said.

Stating that the government was committed to tackle issues on all fronts to tap the full potential of the economy, she said scrutinising laws were also part of this strategy. In this regard, she said issues flagged by various quarters in the Companies Act would be looked into.

“Next Saturday, the Corporate Affairs Secretary will hold a consultation meeting of stakeholders on the Companies Act to see what the problems are and what could be done. This is part of our efforts to ease the process of conducting business in this country,” Ms. Sitharaman said. Asked about a report on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Minister said the report was not initiated by the current government. “But given such inputs are coming out, these are things that the present government has to go into to see what was happening and what are the implications of the report,” she said.

Ms. Sitharaman added that the upcoming budget of the BJP government would give a message for sentiments to be revived, and would seek to send the right signals for growth and business to improve.

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