Lok Sabha members, including those from the BJP, on Monday strongly demanded a ban on the import of Chinese goods since, they said, substandard materials from the communist country were harming India’s small and medium enterprises.
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said any blanket ban on imports from a country “is just not possible under the World Trade Organization norms”. She, however, assured members that adequate steps are being taken to safeguard the interest of Indian manufacturers and consumers.
“We are not soft-pedalling, but we are examining things professionally,” she told the members.
The issue was raised vociferously by Bhola Singh, a BJP parliamentarian from Begusarai in Bihar, who said: “While we can show a big heart culturally and be accommodating to China, the same cannot be said about the economic and trade relations.”
He said there was no justification in soft-handling China in commercial relations as the trade deficit between India and China was growing even otherwise.
The commerce minister agreed that the trade deficit with China has been growing, but said that the government was taking steps against dumping.
“I wish to inform (the house) that where reason and facts show that dumping is happening, safety standards are being violated, we have stopped imports,” she said, adding that import of Chinese milk products has been banned after irregularities were detected.
“On Chinese imports, we have taken specific actions. Import of parts of mobile phones have been stopped as certain parts used in them were unacceptable. Wind-operated electricity generators imported from China are under investigation,” she said.
Vocal Biju Janata Dal member Tathagatha Satpathy supported the BJP member and demanded the ban on Chinese imports.
“China has smashed India’s small and medium enterprises as crooked importers are importing substandard things from China,” he said.
On the ban on Chinese mobiles, the Biju Janata Dal member offered to go with the minister to Khan market in Delhi and “show her how Chinese mobile handsets are available in abundance”.
“These are available in Delhi, Bhubaneshwar and all small towns,” he said.
The minister, however, countered him, saying she never spoke of a blanket ban on mobile phone sets from China.
She clarified that only those not meeting international standards and with no proper labelling of international numbers are not being allowed to be imported.
“Blanket ban on a country is just not possible under the WTO norms,” Sitharaman said.
“Culturally we will remain friends with China; economically, we will take adequate steps,” she added.