In nine months, exports top full FY21 figure; imports rise nearly 70% over a year ago

merchandise exports rose to an all-time high of $37.3 billion last month, up 37 per cent over the year-ago period due to a sharp growth in exports of engineering goods, petroleum products and gems and jewellery, data from the Commerce and Industry Ministry showed Monday.

The nation’s imports too hit an all-time high of $59.3 billion, rising 38 per cent on-year amid an increase in import of petroleum products, electronic goods and machinery. The trade deficit also rose sharply to $22 billion in December 2021, up 40 per cent from December 2020.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said merchandise exports during April-December grew 48.9 per cent over the year ago period, surpassing exports in the entire FY21 fiscal.

Imports, however, have grown even faster, at 69.3 per cent in the same period, pushing India’s trade deficit to $144 billion.

Goyal said he was confident that India’s merchandise exports would reach $400 billion this fiscal despite the recent rise in Covid-19 infections due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Sars-Cov2.

“We are making full efforts and we believe that we will cross $400 billion,” he said, noting that shipping lines and container availability would likely become issues due to the spread of Covid-19 across the world.

The minister also said that the country is on track to reach an all-time high $230 billion of services exports in FY22.

He added that the Centre did not expect any immediate disruptions in the global supply chain due to the pandemic, noting that no major countries had imposed lockdowns and disruptions would likely be due to the spread of Covid among shipping staff.

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Goyal also said there was “no extraordinary increase (in trade) with China,” in response to concerns that India’s trade deficit with China had risen sharply.

“In fact, it (trade deficit with China) was $48 billion in 2014-15, when we had just come into government and in 2021, it was brought down to 44 billion,” Goyal said, adding that the trade deficit with China had “increased drastically” from $1.5 billion in FY05 to $36 billion in FY13 under the then UPA-led government.

The minister also said that India’s overall trade with all countries had increased. India’s trade with China had grown by 44 per cent, but that with Australia had grown by 102 per cent, with South Africa by 82 per cent, and with the UAE by 65 per cent, he added.

On free trade agreements, Goyal said the deal with the UAE was close to being finalised and an interim agreement with Australia, covering “large areas of interest particularly our labour oriented sectors like textiles, pharma, footwear, leather products and agricultural products”, was also set to conclude.

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