Strict measures to check hoarding, profiteering: Trade Min

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Singapore, Apr 4 (UNI) Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath today said his government would not tolerate any hoarding and profiteering of steel, cement and foods.

Mr Nath said toughest measures would be taken in such cases as the government had decided to abolish import taxes to cope with domestic demand.

He, however, expressed hope that the government would not have to use the 18G Industrial Development Regulation against the industries involved in producing these essential commodities.

Mr Nath said the Indian government was concerned about the impact on India of the global economic slowdown and the surging commodity prices.

New Delhi has announced a number of measures to ensure stable prices of essential commodities, including removal of import taxes.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore today, the Minister also highlighted the rising shortage of food in Asia.

Mr Nath said he would be announcing more trade related incentives in Parliament on April 11, including incentives for employements.

Meanwhile, the Minister also disclosed that India will be signing its long-dragged Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeats Asian Nations (ASEAN) in about two months.

All issues relating to the India-ASEAN FTA has been cleared, he told reporters after launching a three-day India@60 trade and cultural fair in Singapore today.

"One of the main hurdles in the Indian-ASEAN FTA was the crude palm oil exports from Malaysia and Indonesia, with both countries demand a hefty cut in import taxes being imposed by India on edible oils. But that seems to have been cleared in view of the rising commodity prices, with agriculturally strong India seen as supporting the Southeast Asian markets", Asian trade analysts said.

Though India is trying to cope with its own inflation rate, increasing domestic demand for food and essential commodities, ASEAN could turn to the Indian agricultural sector for security of supplies in the coming years, the analysts pointed out.

In his remarks on the agri-products, Mr Nath noted the severe shortage of staple food such as rice in Southeast Asia. He observed that the region's domestic demand was increasing against tighter supplies from major agri-product producers.

UNI XC NC BST1126

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