The period under review has been a tumultuous one, with the global economic crisis shaping events and consequently, public policy, over much of this period. The Indian economy weathered the storm with remarkable resilience due, in large part, to the steady and calibrated continuation of the reform process that was set in motion two decades ago.
There are, undoubtedly, many challenges, amongst which the high rate of inflation, particularly in food items, is a major one. The uncertainty of the global economic outlook also casts a shadow on prospects for economic growth. To sustain the tempo of growth, the Government is taking various policy measures to address the major challenges, namely, improving physical and social infrastructure, enhancing agricultural growth and ensuring food security. India's development strategy will be firmly focussed on making the growth process socially inclusive and regionally balanced.
As part of the reform process, India embraced globalisation without losing sight of the need to contain and deal with some of its destabilising effects. The country's economic policies in general, and trade policies in particular, have been tailored to ensure inclusive growth. The emphasis on skill development, education and health and financial inclusion will help in harnessing the tremendous opportunities opened up by globalisation and the greater integration of the Indian economy with the rest of the world.
During the period under review, India's engagement with the world continued to expand, slowly but steadily. India's commitment to trade openness did not falter even at the peak of the global crisis. Many export restrictions were rolled back and several safeguard investigations were terminated without imposing duty. Similar restraint was shown in respect of anti‑dumping investigations.
India took these steps in a global environment in which, regrettably, numerous trade barriers were being erected. Moreover, unlike the more transparent tariff measures that developing countries tend to use, these were mostly non‑tariff barriers, for example, administrative regulations, unjustified applications of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade, slower customs procedures and additional requirements in the administration of import licensing measures. In addition, this period witnessed a slew of non‑WTO compatible measures such as explicit subsidies for industries and preferences for national products over imports.
Not only did India unilaterally roll back its trade defence measures, but it in fact increased its engagement with the world during this period through regional, preferential and free trade agreements. Moreover, India kept its market open for the LDCs through its Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme.
In a large and complex economy like India, the diversities and inequalities in income and levels of development present enormous challenges to policy makers. Economic policy, including trade policy, has to balance the requirements posed by increasing globalisation, with the need to ensure that the benefits of economic growth, development and global integration reach the poorest and most economically backward sections of the population. In any reform process, regardless of whether it is a developed or a developing country, there will be various pulls and pressures along the way. Despite tremendous social and economic challenges, India has made considerable progress, managing all kinds of conflicting pressures along the way, to reach the position it is in today – one of the fastest growing economies in the world. India is committed to continuing along this path of reform, openness and greater integration with the global economy.