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With United States trade under a cloud, China opens to Indian pharma

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China is preparing to give swift regulatory approvals to India-manufactured drugs, the head of an Indian export promotion group said, as Beijing looks for new commercial partners ahead of what could be a protracted trade war with the United States

Indian firms are looking to fill gaps in Chinese demand for generic drugs, software, sugar and some varieties of rice, trade officials in New Delhi said.

"We do feel that China is receptive at this time and it's all about making prices competitive," said a government official involved in the effort to promote trade with China. The official declined to be identified since he is not authorised to speak to the media.

No concrete deals have been signed but the outlook for pharmaceutical sales from India is positive, according to officials from both nations.

India dominates the world's generic drugs market, exporting $17.3 billion worth of drugs in the 2017/18 (April-March) year, including to the United States and the EU. But only one percent of that went to China, the world's second-largest market for pharmaceuticals, industry data showed.

Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil), which falls under India's trade ministry, told Reuters in an interview that Indian firms could expect to win licences to export to China within six months of application.

"We understand internally that Chinese authorities have issued instructions that EU-approved Indian suppliers should be granted the industrial drug licence in an expeditious manner so they can enter the Chinese market within six months," Dua said.

Many Indian drug-makers are already selling to the European Union. The EU is already one of India's key export markets for medicines, and accounted for about 15 percent of overall drug exports in 2016/17, according to Pharmexcil.

Swift regulatory approvals in China, the world's second-largest drug market, would allow Indian companies to boost revenue at a time when pricing scrutiny and regulatory troubles have hurt US sales.

Some of India's largest drugmakers, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and Lupin Ltd as well as Aurobindo Pharma Ltd have been trying for years to expand in the massive Chinese market, which is second only to the United States.

Details of Chinese moves to open up its heavily regulated pharmaceuticals sector have not been previously reported.

The CFDA did not respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said this week that China was moving forward on giving greater market access to Indian drug makers.

"China and India are witnessing a growth in pharmaceutical trade, and the two sides are in sound communication on opening the Chinese market to drugs from India and conducting dialogue and cooperation between the two sides' pharmaceutical industries," Hua told a regular news conference on Monday.

"The relevant departments have formulated specific measures on promoting China-India pharmaceutical trade cooperation and granting greater access to drugs from India. We believe that stronger pharmaceutical trade cooperation will contribute to the well being of the people in our two countries."

PENDING CLEARANCE

In May, China exempted import tariffs on 28 drugs, including all cancer drugs, a move that would help India reduce its trade imbalance with China, Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese ambassador to India said.

About 250 product applications from Indian drug firms are pending before the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), some of them for years, an Indian trade ministry official said.

Bilateral trade between the two Asian nations touched $89.6 billion in 2017/18 with the trade deficit widening to $62.9 billion in China's favour, an over nine-fold increase over the last decade.

The two sides are discussing ways to increase Indian sales of farm products, including sugar and some varieties of rice, to China.

India is also trying to persuade China to give access to its cost-competitive software service firms that have dominated global markets. Some of these firms are pitching for 'smart' manufacturing projects in the central city of Wuhan and two other provinces in the healthcare and automotive sector.

But it is in the drugs sector that India is hoping to make the first dent, according to officials and a government document.

China has agreed to train Indian pharmaceutical executives to help them gain a swifter entry into the Chinese market, a government document seen by Reuters on efforts to improve trade with China showed. The training is planned for next month.

India's Pharmexcil and the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products will shortly sign an agreement to ease clearance processes and help Indian companies find Chinese partners, according to the document.

Dua and the Indian trade ministry official said China will soon open a desk at its embassy in New Delhi to facilitate Indian drug makers.

Govt, RBI plan setting up database to track all non-cash transactions: Report

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The Centre and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are planning to set up a database or a 'search engine' to track  all non-cash financial transactions in the country, the Times of India reported.

The move is aimed at widening the government's crackdown on black money and will help RBI establish a money trail to investigate money laundering cases and operations of shell companies.

The new platform will allow RBI to record all non-cash transactions and share them on a need-to-know basis, a senior government officer told the newspaper.

"It is not going to be available on tap but will be shared based on a specific request," the officer was quoted as saying.

The RBI has reportedly held preliminary discussions on the matter after the finance ministry, income tax department and some investigating agencies deliberated on it in order to widen their scope of cracking down on shell companies and money laundering.

It is not clear whether the proposed tool will be sufficient to help investigating agencies track transactions meant to siphon off money. Tracking all transactions related to an entity and its key functionaries may be difficult in the current setup, officials told the paper.

Also read — What are shell companies? All you need to know

The government feels that a trail of transactions is crucial to get rid of shell companies. Theoretically, shell companies are companies without active business operations or significant assets. They can be set up by business people for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes.

These entities may route funds through a maze of companies and earn a commission for it.

As of now, the Financial Intelligence Unit tracks suspicious transactions and all cash transactions of over Rs 10 lakh.

China's June export growth to United States slows sharply: China customs

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China's exports to the United States in June rose 3.8 percent from a year earlier in yuan terms, 23.8 percentage points lower than the growth rate seen a year earlier, the country's customs agency said late on Monday.

For the first half of this year, customs said China's exports to the United States rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier compared with 19.3 percent for same period in 2017.

The customs agency did not provide exact values for June and January-June exports or say how exports to the U S fared in dollar-denominated terms.

Beijing and Washington are set to impose imports tariffs against each other on July 6 amid an escalating trade dispute that has spooked investors and has driven Chinese stocks and the yuan lower.

China is due to publish preliminary June trade data on July 13.

One year of GST: Consumer durables recover, press for lower tax bracket

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Consumer durables companies took a hit in May 2017 when it was announced that Goods and Services Tax would be levied on almost 80,000 products. GST for white goods, including refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners was set at 28 percent, the highest among the four tax slabs for goods and services.

The sector received another blow when it was announced that there will no extension to the implementation of the tax and that it would come into effect on July 1.

At the time, dealers started making frantic calls to company representatives to understand what GST was all about. The entire inventory had to be re-labelled, systems had to be reconfigured and discounts (if any) had to be immediately passed on.

The situation was tricky as 28 percent tax on goods had a direct impact on production costs. Moreover, a sudden increase in prices would lead customers to postpone their buying decisions. Unsold inventory also would have to be priced differently as compared to fresh stocks.

“The first three to four weeks were a nightmare. Customers wanted discounts because they presumed we were being offered a lower rate of tax, dealers threatened to shut down sales if we didn’t help with the technology upgradation. All prior sales targets had to literally thrown into the bin because we didn’t know what penalties we could face,” the national sales head for a global appliances major said.

As the GST Council had just started to meet, manufacturers had a unanimous request that taxation should be brought down to 18 percent instead of 28 percent. However, the demand has not been met since.

Sales take a hit

In the initial months, when the processes were unclear, sales of consumers durables declined. Customers were not making purchases and dealers refused to stock more than a few thousand goods.

In the second quarter, sales data of most companies saw a clear dip and firms had anticipated the decline.

Vivek Saran, Head of Sales, Mirc Electronics said that there was some impact on sales during the July to September quarter in FY18 as trade (dealers) restricted buying for some time and wanted things to be streamlined. Sales normalised from the following quarter.

“Since traders were liquidating their old stocks at huge discounts till June 30 to reduce their inventories, consumers also preponed their festive purchases,” he added.

Sales of key players sees drop

 (Compiled by Ritesh Presswala)

Another dealer from South Mumbai who stocked all domestic appliances said that for certain products like LED televisions, they ran out of stock during the last few days before GST was implemented.

“We had never faced a situation like this. We had angry customers wanting to buy products and there was nothing we could do because we were running out of inventory. Discounts ranged from 25 percent to as high as 35 percent but stocks were limited,” he added.

Mathew Job , CEO, Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals said that during the implementation of GST, there was some impact on sales due to destocking in the channel. Things have slowly returned to normal over the course of time.

“We helped our trade partners by conducting training sessions and seminars explaining the impact of GST as well as ensuring their preparedness. We also supported them by reimbursing them for the losses that they suffered on the transitional stock,” he added.

Puzzled customers vent out

On one hand, the government announced that there would be heavy penalties for any profiteering move by companies. This meant that even if there was a marginal relief for some companies due to the input tax credit on closing stocks, it had to be passed on.

Customers presumed that white goods would get cheaper. On the other hand, prices for most products either remained same or were increased marginally. This led to the confusion among buyers.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) had constituted a toll-free helpline where customers started to file complaints.

Abhishek Saraoge, a 35 year software engineer from Bengaluru said, “A double-door refrigerator that we were planning to buy saw a price increase of Rs 6,000 in two days. We had to drop the plan of purchasing it and waited for three months before finally buying it online.”

Social media was also abuzz with customers venting out their frustration over non-availability of products as well as price tweaks being made.

Normalcy settles in

Kamal Nandi, Business Head and Executive Vice President, Godrej Appliances said that the new GST regime did bring about some ease of doing businesses.

“The elimination of the state boundaries for transporting goods have facilitated direct deliveries from the plant to the trade partners. This also gave manufacturers the option of consolidating warehouses, optimizing logistic cost,” he added.

He explained that post implementation, GST improved supply chain efficiencies for the industry. GST has brought ‘borderless delivery’ by enabling companies to deliver directly from manufacturing plant to the dealer. In pre-GST era the material would go from the plant to our local warehouse and then to the dealer warehouse. Direct delivery helps in improving response time for markets. Now, there is an opportunity for warehouse space optimization as well.

This year, Godrej is planning to do 20 percent of their deliveries directly from the plant to dealers.

Players wait for tax reduction

Nandi said that with increased commodity prices and repo rate coupled with the strengthening of the dollar the input cost for appliances increased leading to a price hike of 2-3 percent, making appliances unaffordable.

“Any reduction in the tax slab will help offset this hike, which would be beneficial to the customers and lead to a spur in demand, thereby augmenting economic growth in the manufacturing sector,” he added.

Consumer durables companies have met the GST Council time and again to press for the 18 percent tax slab demand. While an immediate revision in the tax rate is not on the anvil, the GST Council could consider the request in the next few months.

BJP raking up past as fear of defeat in 2019 haunting it: Ahmed Patel

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Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's description of Emergency as the Congress's sin, senior leader of the opposition party Ahmed Patel today said the fear of defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was haunting the BJP. An "undeclared emergency" was prevailing in the country for the past four years, Patel told reporters here.

"After four years, the fear of losing the 2019 election is haunting the government and hence, they (BJP) are trying to take refuge in the events of the 1975 Emergency," he said.

"The fact is that after 1977, Indira Gandhi had apologised, corrected her mistakes and the people of India had voted her back to power," Patel added.

"Will the BJP apologise for the undeclared emergency of the last four years? People are being lynched and threatened, government agencies are being misused and economic and civil liberties are being curtailed," the Congress leader said.

"They (BJP) fear that the Congress is coming back to power once again," he added.

Dalits, tribals, OBCs and other marginalised sections of the society were facing the worst kind of suppression in the BJP-ruled states, Patel alleged.

Modi targeted the Gandhi family earlier today, saying the Emergency was a "sin" of the Congress party.

"Emergency was a black spot on democracy. Marking its anniversary as black day (today) is not just to criticise the Congress for its sin of imposing Emergency, but also to make the present and future generations aware of what had transpired and to learn lessons to protect the Constitution and democracy," the prime minister said.

Indian economy can clock double-digit growth before Q4 FY19, says FM Goyal

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Indian economy can clock double-digit growth before the current financial year 2018-19 comes to an end, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said today at an event in Delhi.

“I can actually see it happening before fourth quarter (January-March) of this year. It's not impossible. There is a demand uptick in the economy. There is a mood in the nation and aspirational billions of fantastic marketplace we have,” Goyal said at an industry event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“I think the efforts this government is doing for making easier to do business every with a caveat… let me correct myself. Easier to do honest business. And when this country becomes a nation of honest business, then 10 percent plus growth is doable,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley separately said in a blog that India has established itself as a fastest growing global economy after recording 7.7 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the last quarter of 2017-18.

“This trend, according to experts, is likely to continue for the next few years. With structural reforms like demonetisation, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax and the enforcement of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, we had two challenging quarters... The future looks much brighter than the past. This trend is likely to continue for some years,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley is recovering from a recent kidney transplant and is working in a restricted environment from home.

On current macroeconomic developments, Goyal said that the government will meet the fiscal deficit target, ahead of the elections in 2019.

“Fiscal digit this year will be down to 3.3 percent and I can assure you we are monitoring and working to ensure that fiscal deficit will be contained at 3.3 percent despite this being an election year,” Goyal said.

The government pegged the fiscal deficit target at 3.3 percent of GDP for the financial year 2018-19.

Regarding the recent volatility in oil prices, he said that the government has factored in the increase in international crude oil prices in the Budget 2018.

“Some of it we have now planned and with alternate sources of resources so that without a cut in expenditure, we will be able to meet the fiscal deficit…,” he said.

On a query on whether petroleum products will be included under the ambit of GST, Goyal said that while the decision will be taken by the GST Council, its inclusion can be discussed in the next meeting.


Shujaat Bukhari killing: Jammu and Kashmir Police releases pictures of suspected attackers

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The Jammu and Kashmir Police late night released two pictures of three bike-borne men who are suspected to have killed Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari, and sought the public's help in identifying them. The three militants were caught on a CCTV camera, the police said.

The two pictures showed the three men riding a motorcycle. The attackers had their faces covered.

The police released the pictures late night and asked the public to help them identify the attackers.

"In connection with today's terror attack at Srinagar, police requests general public to identify the suspects for the purpose of the police investigation," a statement read.

The name of the person providing any clue or information regarding the suspects will be kept confidential, it said.

Shujaat Bukhari and his two personal security officers (PSOs) were shot dead by terrorists outside the newspaper's office in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital today, police officials said.

Fifty-three-year-old Bukhari, who had worked as the state correspondent for national daily 'The Hindu' for several years, was shot dead soon after he boarded his car from his office located at Press Enclave in the heart of the city centre -- Lal Chowk.

Achievements in 48 months under BJP 'eye opener', says power minister

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Power Minister R K Singh said today that comparison of 48 years of achievements of the other governments with 48 months of the current government is an "eye opener".

At a press conference on the completion of 4 years of the BJP government, he said: "We added 24,000 MW power generation capacity per year compared to 4,800 MW of earlier governments."

He said 1 lakh MW of power generation capacity and I lakh circuit KM of inter state transmission capacity has been added in the last 4 years.

Besides, 25,000 circuit Km transmission capacity was added per year compared to 3,400 ckm during the previous governments.

He said all the 4 crore families would have power connection by December this year as against the March 2019 deadline under SAUBHAGYA scheme.

"We simply doubled the capacity of renewable energy to 70GW in 4 years. Coal supplies increased 14 per cent compared to last year," Singh said.

RBI monetary policy: Rate hike or not, MPC set to indicate rise in interest rates from here on

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Irrespective of a rate hike or status quo, the Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday is set to change its policy stance to signal a rise in interest rates from here on.

Most experts are expecting a higher probability of key repo rate to remain unchanged at six percent, and a shift in stance from the current “neutral” to “withdrawal of accommodation” by the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Repo rate is the rate at which banks borrow from RBI for their short-term funding requirements.

Withdrawal of accommodation is when a reversal in the interest rate cycle towards a rate cut, to accommodate those wishing it, is ruled out.

The six-member MPC, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, is meeting for three days starting Monday to deliberate on the second bi-monthly monetary policy review for 2018-19 and will announce the verdict on Wednesday, June 6.

“A policy rate hike is likely to be on hold and almost certain to change stance to tightening. A hike is not ruled out but a high chance of it being on hold. I would say a 70:30 ratio between hold and hike,” said Saugata Bhattacharya, Chief Economist at Axis Bank.

According to Bhattacharya, the voting pattern will be keenly watched. “…unlikely to be a split vote. If it's a hold, likely would be 2:4 and if it is a hike would 4:2 (RBI Governor’s final vote in favour of the decision).”

With most banks already increasing their interest rates on both deposits and lending front and a rise seen in inflation and bond yields, a hawkish tone is inevitable.

Moreover, in the minutes of the April MPC meeting, two of the six MPC members — RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya and Executive Director Michael D. Patra — have already decided to vote in favour of a 25 basis points (bps) hike.

One bp is a hundredth of a percentage point.

Also Read: RBI’s monetary policy committee to meet for 3 days in June instead of 2 days

Inflation, GDP and oil prices

India’s retail inflation for April was higher at 4.58 percent from March’s 4.28 percent due to rise in prices of miscellaneous items such as education, household goods, personal care items as well as petrol and diesel prices.

The gross domestic product (GDP) data released last week showed that the economy grew at 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017-18, beating analyst expectations. It should please policymakers.

Therefore, in order to control inflation amid satisfactory GDP growth numbers, the language will be more hawkish and the inflation forecast will be revised upwards, Bhattacharya added.

In its April review, the MPC noted that inflation in the first half of the current fiscal would be in the range of 4.7-5.1 percent and moderate to 4.4 percent in the second half, with risks on the upside. Although the monsoon is expected to be normal this year, there is a risk of a significant hike in the minimum support price, as announced in the Union budget, which could push inflation.

Further, crude prices have firmed up in recent months. Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Russia have indicated that production will be increased, but prices are unlikely to come down significantly.

Most experts believe that if the policy rate is on hold, it will be followed by rate hikes in the forthcoming meetings in August and October.

“I think there is an even chance of rate change in this or the next policy. US rates, its bond yields have gone up significantly, oil prices have gone higher and so that has created a situation that there is less liquidity in the system and hence bond yields here have gone up.”

The uncertainty in the global financial market has also increased since the last policy, with a tightening in financial condition resulting in an outflow by foreign portfolio investors. Moreover, the growing economic problems in the eurozone has added to the uncertainty.

A note by Kotak Economic research said: “We pencil in 50 bps of rate hike in FY2019 (earlier pause) possibly split between August and October. But we do believe that the MPC votes are likely to be evenly balanced in the June meeting thereby keeping the chances of a rate hike alive in June.”

Death toll from Nipah virus rose to 15 in Kerala

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The death toll due to Nipah virus in the state rose to 15, with a 28-year-old man succumbing to the deadly virus here, a health department official said today.

Akhil, a native of Karassery, who was undergoing treatment at the Kozhikode Medical college hospital (KMCH) since May 29, died last night, the official said.

Two more persons, confirmed of having contracted the virus are being treated at KMCH, he said.

Besides, 1,353 people who had been in contact with the affected persons before the confirmation of the disease, are under observation, the official said.

Yesterday, Madhusudhanan (55) of Nellikode in the district, who was undergoing treatment in a private hospital here also breathed his last.

He was working as a Senior superintendent in the Kozhikode District Court.

The outbreak of the Nipah virus infection, a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans, is suspected to be from an unused well in Perambra which was infested with bats.

The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.

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