‘India will protect interests of its auto industry’


New Delhi : India must protect the interests of its auto industry from the impact of free trade pacts with other countries that allow imports at zero or reduced tariff, Heavy Industry Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev said Thursday.

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“We have to see that a lot of free trade agreements that are being signed by India should not stand in the growth path of our automobile industry, as it is only 15-year-old,” Dev told the inaugural event of Auto Expo 2008 here.

“If we do not do it, we will end up becoming net importers,” the minister told the eight-day event, that was opened by his cabinet colleague and Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, which oversees the free trade pacts.

“We also have to be globally competitive. If we were to be globally competitive, we need to achieve economies of scale. I want the industry to bear in mind this aspect so that when investment is made global competitiveness is first priority,” he said.

“We are certainly much more economic in terms of infrastructure costs compared to Europe and North America, but we need to be more competitive with regard to the emerging economies by achieving higher productivity.”

The government, he said, has the stated objective of making the Indian auto sector a $145-billion industry by 2016 that will also see the creation of 25 million additional jobs.

Kamal Nath assured those present at the occasion that the United Progressive Alliance government was, indeed, cautious in protecting the interests of its industry whenever required.

“In fact, we have been very, very cautious in protecting the interests of our auto sector,” the minister told the opening day of the event that was dominated by the launch of $2,500-car “Nano” by the Tata group.

Earlier, commenting on the Tata car, Kamal Nath sad it had the potential to fulfil the dreams of the average Indian who wanted to move away from a two-wheeler to a car.

“It is, indeed, a proud moment for India. It demonstrates India’s technological and entrepreneurial ability. The car will help people move from the two-wheeler to four-wheeler,” he said.

The ninth edition of Auto Expo has been organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

“There will be four global launches of cars out of a total of 25 new launches during this year’s expo,” CII Deputy Director General Gurpal Singh said, adding that the organisers had doubled the areas under display.

The organisers said the expected some 1.5 million visitors to the show.