Dev seeks protection for auto industry as FTAs may hamper growth

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New Delhi, Jan 10 (UNI) Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Sontosh Mohan Dev today cautioned against entering into Free Trade Agreements and bilateral trade negotiations, which hamper the growth of the Indian auto industry.

Speaking at the inauguration of the ninth Auto Expo here, Mr Dev said, ''we must ensure that the Free Trade Agreements and bilateral trade negotiations should not stand on the growth path of this new emerging sector. Every country has given protection to the Auto sector during its initial growth stage. Unless we do so, we might end up as net importer of automobile and auto components.'' However, Commerce Minister, who is currently negotiating, FTAs with countries every care has been taken to protect the industry.

''We have been very cautious on protecting interests of auto sector.'' Both corporate and political personalities of late have been critical of the indiscriminate manner in which the FTAs are being negotiated.

India already has FTAs with Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

It is negotiating such agreements with the European Union and ASEAN.

There is also talk of reaching such preferential agreements with Japan and China.

Mr Dev also called on the auto industry to be globally competitive and achieve economy of scale. ''I would like the industry to bear this aspect in mind so that while investment is made, global competitiveness should be the first priority.'' He added that the Government is fully focused in achieving the targets, which have been agreed upon in the Automotive Mission Plan.

The Minister announced that the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP) would be providing state-of-the-art facilities for testing and homologation by 2009.

''One of the biggest tracks in the world is being built at Indore for the auto sector. This half-a-billion dollar project will ensure that the auto sector is fully complemented with facilities and we are not dependent on outside world,'' said Mr Dev.

NATRIP will also have several centres of excellence in component design, engine and vehicle dynamics by 2011-12. This will facilitate technology flow to the SMEs in the auto sector, he added.

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