Eight more FTAs on anvil with countries like Japan, Israel

"We have done FTAs with Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. We have seven to eight FTAs on the anvil with nations including New Zealand, Israel, Tunisia and European Union. They are pretty much across the board," Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said here at International Trade Awards 2010-11, organised by CNBC TV-18 and DHL.

He stressed upon the need to have drivers like stable fiscal as well as  non-fiscal policies and GST (Goods and Services Tax) regime in place as a step towards boosting trade relations with other nations.

India has already entered into FTA with Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), South Korea and Japan. On Task Force report on transaction cost in exports, Scindia said, "We are trying to take up 21 issues in the second phase. The second phase of report is expected in eight to nine months."

He said the government has resolved 23 issues in the first report. The government released the report in February. It outlines some significant measures to reduce transaction costs for exporters, including round-the-clock customs clearance at eight major ports, reduction in bank charges on foreign currency and concessional loans.

The Task Force has identified 44 issues for action, involving seven ministries like finance, shipping and civil aviation. On the proposed imposition of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) on SEZ developers, Scindia said, his ministry is trying to pursue the issue with the Finance Ministry to reverse its decision as it could hurt the investor sentiment. He said, however, the Finance Ministry also has its limitations. "We are trying and using our best offices to convince them and the process will be going on."

In the Budget 2011-12, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed to levy MAT of 18.5 per cent on the book profits of Special Economic Zone developers and units.
Both developers as well as units in the tax-free enclaves were earlier exempted from MAT under Section 115 JB of the Income Tax Act.

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