The ministry for commerce and industry may approach the shipping ministry for improving the operations at ports on the eastern coast of the country with an eye on improving trading infrastructure before the Asean free trade agreement (FTA) comes into force in January 2010. Presently, Asean is a 10-nation Southeast Asian organisation to promote trade and culture, among others.
In August this year, India and Asean member countries signed a pact to lift import tariffs on more than 80 per cent of traded goods between 2013 and 2016. Eastern India, and specifically West Bengal, is widely expected to benefit from this FTA by virtue of geographical proximity to the Southeast Asian nations.
However, with the Haldia port — Bengal's only maritime facility capable of handling large vessels — significantly affected due to heavy siltation in major navigational channels, an immediate intervention is required if the state is to cash in on the expected $ 50 billion trade.
“Send me a note on the situation (at the ports) and, if required, I will take up the issue with my counterpart at the Shipping Ministry,” Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said at an interactive session organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce here today.
Though Scindia indicated that the FTA was not region specific and was aimed at improving trade across the country, he conceded that West Bengal had an advantage due to its location. Meanwhile, the minister said that a debt relief package for small coffee growers was in the offing.