Prior to this, Rao was the special telecom secretary. Rao, a 1978 IAS from Gujarat cadre, was earlier special IT secretary.
As the new commerce secretary Rao faces a tough challenge ahead in propelling India merchandise exports, which is currently facing adverse conditions due to the global economic condition. A postgraduate in social work and rural development, Rao's immediate task is to present the annual review to the Foreign Trade Policy 2009-2014, which is eagerly awaited by the exporters.
Last fiscal India saw a record trade deficit of $185 billion and it remains to be seen how Rao steers the policy measures to contain the soaring trade deficit and help India achieve $500 billion worth of exports by 2013-2014, according to the government's target.
Besides, Rao's experience would also be counted in how emerges as a trade negotiator in negotiating some of the pending yet important bilateral deals such the India-EU free trade agreement.
Meanwhile, the government has also appointed Ashis Bahuguna as Agriculture Secretary, according to an official release here. Bahuguna, an IAS of 1978 cadre of Rajasthan, is at present Special Secretary and Financial Adviser in the Department of Agriculture.
Among other appointments, S K Srivastava, at present Mines Secretary, will be Coal Secretary in place of Alok Petri who has retired.
Sudhir Kumar will be Food Secretary and will move from special secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development in place of B C Gupta. Gokul Chandra Pati will now be officer on special duty in the rank and pay of secretary in the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.