1 . India set to become second largest producer of steel
At the Third position in steel output over the last three years, India is within striking distance of dislodging Japan as the second largest producer of steel. However, the jump would still leave it far behind China which, with 831.7 MT, accounted for 49.2% of the global output of 1,692 MT in 2017.
The gap in production between Japan and India was almost reduced to naught in the first month of the current year. This followed a consistent pattern since 2013 when Japan’s output of 100.5 MT of steel was a good 29 MT higher than India’s. The gap came down to 3.4 MT in 2017 — Japan produced 104.7 MT of steel last year compared to India’s 101.4 MT. Significantly, while India’s output grew 6.2% in 2017, Japan’s fell marginally in the year.
It was in 2015 that India had grabbed the third slot in steel output from the United States. Analysts believe India will go past Japan’s production by a significant margin in the current year. This is because while Japan’s output has been declining for the last several years, India’s has been growing steadily. Significantly, the National Steel Policy approved in May last year targets an installed capacity of 300 MT by 2030-31, from 130 MT at present.
The target is not a very stiff one though the debt-ridden sector would need around Rs 10 lakh crore to fund the proposed expansion. The industry also needs to be competitive, to check cheap imports flooding the domestic market, as happened in 2015.
Reasons for the surge
Measures like an increase in import duty, a minimum import price regime, safeguard duty, anti-dumping duty bore fruit when India’s imports came down by 36.6% in 2016-17 over 2015-16 even as exports grew 102%. Domestic steel demand growth has improved. This improvement was supported by sustained buoyancy in the automobile sector and recovery in growth rates in the construction and capital goods sectors.
The domestic consumption growth may remain favourable on the back of the government’s thrust on infrastructure, in particular towards affordable housing, power transmission and the railways in the Union Budget 2018-19.
2 . India raises import tax on crude, refined palm oil
India has raised import tax on crude palm oil to 44 percent from 30 percent and lifted the tax on refined palm oil to 54 percent from 40 percent.
The duty increase will lift oilseed prices and domestic supply for crushing, helping the country to cap edible oil imports in the 2017/18 marketing year, which started on Nov. 1
India is the world’s biggest importer of edible oils. It buys mainly palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soyoil from Brazil and Argentina.
3 . India blocked WTO ministerial declaration agreement in December: US
The Trump administration has told the Congress that India in December “blocked” a ministerial declaration reaffirming the principles and objectives set out in the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO.
The four-day conference of the 164-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Argentina had ended without a ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome in December.
At the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017, members agreed to several important outcomes, including a Ministerial decision on fisheries subsidies and a work programme on electronic commerce.
Allegations made by Trump administration
At the end of the conference, the United States and all Members, except India, were prepared to sign a short Ministerial Declaration reaffirming the principles and objectives set out in the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO report submitted by US Trade Representatives.
India blocked consensus due to its demands for text to be included in the Declaration regarding special and differential treatment and the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).
The US and others have clearly stated that Members must rethink how development is approached at the WTO, and that it is time to move beyond the outdated, failed framework of the DDA.
If the WTO is to reclaim its credibility as a vibrant negotiating and implementing forum, Members must take advantage of every opportunity to advance work and seize results as they present themselves.
In looking ahead to the period before the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2019, the US believes that Members should begin the process of identifying opportunities to achieve accomplishments, even if incremental ones, and avoid buying into the predictable, and often risky, formula of leaving everything to a package of results for Ministerial action, the Trump administration said.
Whether the issue is agriculture or digital economy, the WTO will impress capitals and stakeholders most by simply doing rather than posturing for the next Ministerial Conference.
Bringing disappointment to developing countries like India, the talks at the WTO’s 11th ministerial conference had collapsed, with the US going back on its commitment to find a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue.
As the US refused to engage, the WTO failed to reach a common ground for resolving the food security issue, a demand raised prominently by India.
India had wanted explicit reference on commitment for completion of the DDA and affirmation of faith in multilateralism. As some members did not agree to India’s submission, the ministerial declaration failed to pass the muster.