India’s exports are showing signs of improvement as the contraction in outbound shipments in June so far has come down to about 10-12% compared with 60% in April, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

Declining for the third straight month, India’s exports dipped 36.47% in May to $19.05 billion. “Currently, we are about 10-12% down in June. So, in a sense, we have reached up to 88-90% of the level of exports we had in June 2019 in the current month in the first two weeks. I am awaiting data for third week (of June),” Mr. Goyal said at a CII function.

The Minister said the focus was on sustainable growth and not on giving ‘handout’ for exports.

He said subsidies were never good for businesses and wouldn’t help domestic exporters in engaging with the world from a position of strength and power.

When asked about foreign direct investment (FDI), he said almost all sectors are open for overseas investors, but that the Ministry was open to other ideas.

On foreign direct investment, he said, “We have some constraints in multi-brand retail because we have a large part of Indians dependent on small mom-and-pop stores,” he said, adding that these shops have kept essential supplies available and played a key role during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“In insurance, our expectations from insurance companies was much more and deeper, sadly we feel let down. So there are a few sectors where we would like all of you tell us,” he added.

The Minister said that the government has to balance security concerns and opening up of the economy.

“FDI is welcome, but we certainly have to take precautions that we do not get the wrong type of capital which is opportunistic and which is not really good for the nation,” Mr. Goyal said.

The Minister also said that the government was giving special focus to high quality standard products.

“I think a lot of people have not appreciated that our government is giving priority to high quality standards….(But) India has finally evolved and has made up its mind that we are going to only accept good quality products,” he added.

He emphasised the need to bring back the quality culture in the country.

Even if a domestic quality product is a bit costlier than an imported one, it is sensible to buy the Indian item, he said, adding that in the long run people could have to pay a “terrible price” if they did not buy quality Indian goods.

On reforms by States, he said 15-17 States had executed ‘game-changing’ labour reforms recently and a lot of it would come to the public domain in the next few days. On cash transfers to citizens suggested by many as a short-term measure, he said, “People should understand that India has to use this crisis to prepare ourselves for a sustainable future.”

Citing an example, he said if a business was facing tough times, it can start improving its productivity, look at wasteful expenditure, start tightening the belt and do the same things in a better way.

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