Commerce minister Piyush Goyal (Mint file)
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal (Mint file)

Trade minister Piyush Goyal has to hit the ground running

  • Piyush Goyal has his task cut out to boost India’s exports in an increasingly protectionist world and intensifying trade war between the US and China
  • India also has to finalize its national e-commerce policy, including taking a stand on issues such as data localization and source code sharing

New Delhi: Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, who will also be in charge of the railway ministry in the second innings of the Narendra Modi government, has his task cut out to boost India’s exports in an increasingly protectionist world and intensifying trade war between the US and China. Goyal has to almost immediately start talks with the US along with the new foreign affairs minister S. Jaishankar to resolve the tense bilateral trade relationship.

Goyal on Friday took charge of his new ministry at Udyog Bhawan on Friday and was joined by outgoing minister Suresh Prabhu. Later, Goyal held a meeting with the secretaries and senior officers of his ministry.

India’s trade relationship with the US under the Trump administration has deteriorated. The US has refused to grant a waiver to India on its duty hikes on aluminium and steel products on national security grounds. India has retaliated by proposing to hike duties on 29 products imported from the US but has time and again postponed its implementation. The US has also dragged India to the WTO challenging its export subsidies regime. Trump has also decided to withdraw duty-free benefits to Indian exporters, but has held back, waiting for an Indian government to take charge in New Delhi.

Goyal also has an unenviable task of negotiating a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, which is balanced and does not go against the long-term interest of the Indian industry. The 16-member RCEP trade deal is entering its final leg with pressures to conclude negotiations by the year end. India, so far, has been a reluctant participant, with the industry bodies opposing the trade deal.

India also has to quickly finalize its national e-commerce policy, including taking a stand on contentious issues such as data localization and source code sharing.

Goyal, 54, who served as railway and coal minister in the first term of the Narendra Modi government, takes the place of Suresh Prabhu in the commerce ministry.

A chartered accountant and lawyer by profession Goyal presented the interim budget 2019-20 in the absence of Arun Jaitley.

Goyal is credited for the government’s plan to provide 24X7 electricity, the clean energy push, Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) meant to revive debt-ridden power distribution companies, to improving India’s energy access through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY). Goyal was presented with the fourth Carnot prize in recognition of his work on village electrification during his tenure as power minister. The award was presented by the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.

Inducted as a minister of state with independent charge for power, coal, new and renewable energy and mines in the previous government, Goyal was later promoted to the rank of the Cabinet minister.

Goyal is an all-India second rank holder chartered accountant and second rank holder in law from the Mumbai University. He served as the national treasurer for the BJP and led the party’s winning communications campaign in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. The Mumbai university graduate was an investment banker and also served on the boards of State Bank of India and Bank of Baroda.

He has had a long association with the BJP with his father, the late Ved Prakash Goyal, being India’s shipping minister and the BJP’s national treasurer. His mother Chandrakanta Goyal has been a three-time member of the Maharashtra state legislative assembly.

Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story

Also read: PM Modi allocates portfolios. Full list of new ministers

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