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India pitches for greater systematic trade in textiles with Asean

India on Tuesday bid for greater systematic trade in textiles with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Textile Minister Smriti Irani told a large contingent of business leaders at an event organised by industry body Ficci, “India can be a one-stop sourcing destination for textile materials from Asean,”

The minister also touched upon the ghost of cheaper Chinese materials/finished products flooding Asean markets. “They cannot compete with the rich legacy of our handlooms,” she said proudly. To this effect, a unique fashion show was organised here on Tuesday by Ficci, where traditional fabrics from both India and Asean members were showcased by young designers from both sides. During the last fiscal, India’s textiles exports to the region touched $1.20 billion, while imports were $546 million. Textiles Secretary Anant Kumar Singh noted, “With a strong multi-fibre base and an abundant supply of raw materials like cotton, wool, silk, jute and man-made fibres, India enjoyed a distinct advantage of backward integration that many countries do not possess,”

Despite the operation of the FTA in goods with Asean, India’s exports of textiles and apparels to the region have been constant in the last few years and had not shown much movement. Though India has a unique advantage of having the presence of the entire textile value chain, its most exported items to Asean consisting of cotton fibre, cotton yarn and fabrics have not grown to the desired extent, Singh added.

The government has noted that Indian exporters have not been able to explore and leverage the terms of trade deal to its fullest advantage. It is also looking at methodologies to create a robust framework to export textiles and apparel to Asean markets, and further to China, Northeast Asia and the EU through their various trade agreements.

Investors have the opportunity of entering the entire value chain of synthetics, value-added and specialty fabrics, fabric processing and technical textiles. Trade and economy ministers from seven nations in the 10-country bloc was of the view that the speedy conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was necessary. However, the Indian government said the sensitivities of all nations — services trade in its case — needed to be first taken into account.