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Editor's Take | Decoding the fuss over new GDP data

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The NITI Aayog and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on November 28 released the 'back-series' of India's gross domestic product (GDP) data from 2005-06, using a new methodology, that shaved off the previous growth estimates by a few percentage points in several years.

The new data showed that the Indian economy did not grow at a scorching pace during the erstwhile UPA government's years as was earlier made out to be.

It has triggered a raging debate over the formula with the Congress accusing the government of manipulating data.

Watch Sakshi Batra in conversation with Gaurav Choudhury, Deputy Executive Editor, Moneycontrol as he decodes the new GDP data that kicked up a political row over the timing of its release.

There will be huge change in healthcare sector if more people donate organs: Ashiwini Kumar Choubey

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Union minister Ashiwini Kumar Choubey said on Tuesday if more individuals decide to donate their organs it will bring a huge change in the country's healthcare sector and many lives can be saved.

The Union minister of State for Health and Family Welfare was addressing the gathering at 9th Indian Organ Donation Day celebrations by the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) under the aegis of the Health Ministry.

"There are lakhs of people who wait at top hospitals for life-saving transplants amid acute shortage of donors. There is a need to spread awareness about organ donation and bridge certain gaps. Even if a section of individuals decide to donate his or her organs, it will bring a huge change," Choubey said.

The programme was also attended by Union Minister of State Anupriya Patel.

Govt extends duty benefit for export of non-basmati rice

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The government has extended duty benefits to non-basmati rice exporters under a scheme to boost the shipment of the agri commodity. The duty benefit is provided under the commerce ministry's Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS).

"Non-basmati rice items have been made eligible for MEIS benefits at the rate of 5 per cent for exports made with effect from November 26 and up to March 25, 2019," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has said in a public notice.

DGFT, under the commerce ministry deals with export and import related policies.

Under MEIS, government provides duty credit scrip or certificate depending on product and country.

Those scrips can be transferred or used for payment of a number of duties including the basic customs duty.

India is one of the largest exporters of non-basmati rice and in 2017-18, the country exported 8.63 million tonnes of the rice, which was more than double the quantity of basmati rice exports of 4.05 million tonnes.

Non-basmati rice exports during April-February 2018 stood at USD 3.26 billion as against USD 2.53 billion in 2016-17.

Rice is the country's main kharif crop. As per the first advance estimates of foodgrains production for kharif (summer-sown) season for 2018-19 crop year, rice output is estimated at record 99.24 million tonnes as against 97.5 million tonnes of production in last year's kharif season.

The sowing operation of kharif crops begins with onset of monsoon and harvesting starts from mid-September. Paddy, maize and soyabean are major kharif crops.

WTO's discussion agenda must include old, new issues: Suresh Prabhu

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Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday said that discussion agenda of the World Trade Organization (WTO) must include both old as well as new issues to maintain the relevance of the global trade body. He said that there were challenges before the global trade and their impact would have implications on the world economy.

"Today, we must agree that without WTO, we will have a problem because we need global trade...We must make sure that WTO remains intact. WTO has to change and change for the better," he said here at a programme organised by law firm Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan and an industry chamber.

Prabhu said that based on his discussions with other member countries, an agenda was being prepared which will be forward-looking, agreeable to all nations and include substantive issues.

"We cannot forget the issues that have been put on the table with an agreement of all the countries and those issues also need to be taken into account... So, we cannot forget the so-called old issues. At the same time, we cannot just forget inclusion of new issues. So, we must find out a proper substantive agenda which will be encompassing all these important elements," he added.

While developing countries, including India, want issues related to agricultural subsidies to be resolved, developed nations, such as the US, are keen to push forward new matters related to e-commerce and investments.

WTO's relevance is now under question as some countries are taking unilateral measures, which are impacting global trade.

Two agencies to be appointed for template on FTA negotiations in future: Suresh Prabhu

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Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday said that two independent agencies would be appointed for preparing a template to negotiate free trade agreements (FTAs) in future. He said that the country would now have a completely new approach towards negotiating these agreements.

"We are appointing two independent agencies, who will talk to all the is a first major change. This will be a new template which will emerge for all future negotiations and we are working on it," he said here at a function.

The announcement assumes significance as concerns have been raised by industry, exporters and trade experts on FTAs being implemented by India.

They say that these pacts have significantly benefited India's trading partners but not Indian industry. Several sectors, including steel, have demanded that they be removed from the purview of such agreements as these lead to dumping and significant jump in imports.

Under an FTA, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate import duties on majority of the goods traded between them. Besides, both countries liberalise norms to promote services trade and attract investments.

India has, so far, implemented such agreements with ASEAN and countries including Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. Several such pacts are also under negotiations with Australia, New Zealand, European Union, Israel, and proposed 16-member Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership (RCEP).

Serious concerns have been raised on RCEP negotiations with China as one of the member nations. Several ministries, including steel and food processing, have said that the pact would result in flooding of goods from China.

The trade gap with China has increased to USD 63.12 billion in 2017-18, against USD 51.11 billion in the previous financial year. India has trade deficit with 10 RCEP member countries including with South Korea and Australia.

Prabhu said,"while we need FTAs, we make FTAs in a way that it will benefit India to begin with and also other countries. We cannot grow at the expense of India losing and, therefore, we are working on this strategy."

This would also help in promoting the country's outbound shipments, he added.

Talking about trade with the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the minister said despite the closeness of the member countries, "our export in SAARC region itself is sub-optimal".

Huge potential exists to boost exports in this region, he said, adding India is trying to work with the neighbouring countries to increase trade.

Birla Copper sees Indian copper demand doubling by 2026

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India's refined copper consumption is set to more than double over the next eight years amid rising demand from the power, auto and consumer sectors, the chief executive of one of the country's top copper smelters said on Thursday.

The nation's consumption of the metal is expected to rise to 1.433 million tonnes by 2026 from 650,000 tonnes in 2018, Birla Copper CEO JC Laddha told delegates at the Asia Copper Conference in Shanghai.

However, he added that this projection did not include the boost copper may receive from a boom in copper-intensive electric vehicles.

"If you add that, I think by 2026 the total consumption would be 2.5 million tonnes," Laddha said. Birla Copper is a unit of Hindalco Industries.

"India's demand for overall copper has risen rapidly over the years and is expected to rise further as a result of various projects like 'Make in India' (and) infrastructure investment," Laddha said.

The government's 'Make in India' initiative is a campaign to boost foreign direct investment into the country.

The nation's refined copper production is set to hit 843,000 tonnes this year, Laddha said, outstripping demand, which is expected to reach 642,000 tonnes.

But following the forced shutdown of Vedanta Ltd's 400,000 tonne per year copper smelter in May, production will shrink to 450,000 tonnes in 2019, versus demand of 700,000 tonnes, he said.

The smelter was closed after the Tamil Nadu state government cut power supply to the unit following violent protests over alleged pollution that resulted in the death of 13 people in police firing.

Vedanta has denied that the plant, India's second biggest copper smelter located in the port city of Thoothukudi, pollutes the area.

Imports from ASEAN countries, Japan and the Middle East are increasing, benefiting from the disruption to supply in India, Laddha said, putting the share of imports at 41 percent currently, versus 28 percent before.

US Treasury's Mnuchin spoke with China Vice Premier Liu He: Report

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has resumed discussions with China Vice Premier Liu He, with the two speaking by telephone on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing sources.

The conversation did not lead to any breakthrough to resolve the tariff dispute between the world's two largest economies, the WSJ reported.

A US Treasury spokesman did not immediately respond to a query about the report.

The development comes as China President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump plan to meet on the sidelines of a G20 summit that is being held in Argentina at the end of November and early December.

Earlier this month, after a phone conversation with Xi, Trump said he thought the United States would make a deal with China on trade but stood ready to levy more tariffs on Chinese goods if no progress is made.

Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods to pressure Beijing to stop intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, improve market access for US firms and cut China's high-tech industrial subsidy program - major shifts away from China‘s state-led economic model.

The tariff rate on $200 billion in Chinese goods is set to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on January 1. Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, about $267 billion worth, if China fails to address US demands.

Mnuchin in October said that China needed to identify concrete "action items" to rebalance the two countries' trade relationship before talks to resolve their disputes could resume.

Average spot power price rises 45% at Rs 5.94/unit in October

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Average spot power price at Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) rose 45.5 percent in October at Rs 5.94 per unit over Rs 4.08 per unit in the year-ago month. IEX witnessed highest ever sales volume of 7,125 million units (MU) during the month due to higher demand, coal shortage, lower wind and hydro power generation.

The average Market Clearing Price (MCP) at Rs 5.94 per unit last month registered 26 percent rise over Rs 4.69 per unit price in September 2018 and 45.5 percent increase over October 2017, an IEX statement said.

According to the statement, power prices and volume remained on the higher side throughout the month due to high demand of power from western, eastern and southern states as well as supply side constraints such as coal shortages, reduced hydro and wind generation affecting the market.

The electricity market at IEX, both Day Ahead Market (DAM) and Term Ahead Market (TAM), traded the highest ever monthly volume of 7,125 MU last month, up 22 percent over 5,829 MU traded in September and higher 63 percent year-on-year.

The average spot power price was highest at Rs 7.30 per unit during evening peak hours from 0600 PM to 1100 PM.

The DAM traded 6,505 MU last month – the highest ever achieved so far in any month, registering an increase of 14 percent month-on-month and 59 percent year-on-year. On daily average basis about 210 MU were traded, the highest during any month.

One Nation, One Price was realised for 17 days at IEX. The DAM experienced transmission congestion of 1 percent mainly in the import towards southern region. On daily average basis, 605 participants traded in the market during the month.

The TAM traded 620 MU in October 2018, registering 5 times increase in volume over previous month and 1.2 times increase over October 2017.

A total of 4,25,289 RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) were sold in the REC trading session held on October 31 featuring trade of 2,95,010 Non-Solar RECs and 1,30,279 Solar RECs. The trading session saw increase of 24 percent year-on-year and decline of 73 percent month-on-month.

Both Solar and Non-Solar RECs saw reversal in REC demand-supply situation with buy bids exceeding the sell bids. Distribution companies were the major buyers in the session followed by captive and open access consumers.

On October 31, IEX also successfully launched its GST portal for smooth handling of GST collection, invoicing and associated obligations of TCS and TDS related to trade in the REC market.

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Korea in the field of tourism

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The cabinet on Thursday approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Korea for strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism, a statement from the government said.

The main objectives of the MoU are to expand bilateral cooperation in tourism, including cooperation in data related to tourism, between tourism stakeholders, including hotels and tour operators, to establish exchange programmes for cooperation in human resource development and encourage investment in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

"India and Korea have enjoyed a strong diplomatic and long economic relationship. The two parties are now desiring to strengthen and further develop the established relationship for strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism," the statement said.

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