Eye on China, India firms up ‘country of origin’ norm

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, December 30: The Ministry of Commerce on Friday came out with new packaging rules, which call for mandatory disclosure of information such as ‘country of origin’ among others for 19 imported items. The packaging rules on the imported items will apply from February 1, 2023.

The Ministry of Commerce said that imported items such as milk, tea, biscuits, edible oil, flour, baby food, pulses, wheat, bread, detergent, cement bags, bottled water must disclose the ‘country of origin’ along with manufacturing date. The move has come seemingly to curb the attempts of China to find ways for its goods into the Indian market by taking advantage of the free trade agreements with ASEAN, and similar pacts with other countries such as Nepal, Japan, Australia, the UAE and others.

It may be recalled that India had walked out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on the grounds that it could lead to flooding of the Indian market with the Chinse goods. But of late the government officials flagged the increasing trends of the Chinese manufacturers setting up bases in countries or blocks with which India has liberal trade pacts to take advantage to dump goods without attracting the normal import tariff.

A parliamentary standing committee in an exhaustive report had revealed that counterfeit ‘Darjeeling Tea’ was being dumped in India from Nepal. The report had recommended the government to take steps to curb the dumping of ‘Darjeeling Tea’ from Nepal, which was tarnishing the image of the original product, which enjoys premium international market.

Incidentally, India is now insisting on ‘country of origin’ rule for the FTAs, while sensitizing ASEAN block also on the trend of the Chinese manufacturers taking benefit of the India-ASEAN FTA. India has subsequently signed comprehensive pacts for economic cooperation on the lines of FTA with the UAE and Australia. The India-UK FTA negotiations are also underway. India is also holding negotiations with the European Union for signing an FTA. India is also holding negotiations with the US for an FTA.

By insisting on ‘country of origin’ printing on the packages of the imported goods, India hopes to cut down on China’s cunning commercial tricks played with the Indian market. It may also be recalled that there has been popular campaign in India against the Chinese goods since the 2020 Galwan skirmish in the eastern Ladakh, which has been spearheaded by the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh. Recently, the Aam Aadmi Party ruling Delhi has also given a call for the boycott of the Chinese goods.

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