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Import of mobile phones, cameras, electronic items from FTA partners under the scanner

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New Delhi: The Customs Department will closely monitor the import of items such as mobile phones, home appliances, boxes, cameras and other electronic items with a new set of rules to control India’s free trade abuse starting next Monday , said an official.

Imports of these items from countries with which India has free trade agreements (FTAs) will receive special regulatory attention as authorities apply new rules to verify the origin of imported products.

Customs Rules (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements), 2020, issued last month enters into force on 21 September. The idea is to prevent products from being dumped in India by exporters in a third country by exploiting India’s free trade agreement with certain nations.

These rules have been issued to control alleged abuse of FTAs, which has been on the rise to avoid customs duties on imports. The official quoted above said that a new provision was introduced in the Customs Act earlier this year for strict verification of the rules of origin of imports under FTA to ensure that FTA benefits are received correctly. The rules for implementing this provision were issued last month.

What has caused concern among the authorities is the fact that while India’s exports to FTA partner countries remain almost low below the main treaties, imports increased rapidly.

The trade deficit has widened. In the case of the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the trade deficit increased from $ 5 billion in 2010 when the ASEAN FTA was implemented, to more than $ 22 billion now. “This huge increase in the trade deficit has become a serious cause for concern for the country,” the official said.

India’s position of trade surplus goods with Vietnam and Singapore has reversed in the last three to four years. Also, the trade gap has widened with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

These FTAs ​​have been widely misused to export goods to India without fully complying with the requirements of the rules of origin. Vietnam has now exported a large number of electronic items. “These include smartphones, TV sets, set-top boxes, digital cameras and parts of mobile phones,” the official said.

Imports of electronic devices have started coming from Indonesia as well. Thailand and Malaysia have also exported increased quantities of electronic and other goods, the official said.

In the last five years, the Customs department has uncovered fraudulent claims under the FTA in the amount of Rs. 1,200 crore, the official said.

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