Trade Guide: India

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With a population of 1.2 billion people, India (official name: the Republic of India) is the second most populous country in the world, and thanks to its remarkable growth in recent decades, has become the world’s fourth largest economy, and the third largest in Asia, behind China and Japan.

Customs, Technical Standards, and Trade Regulations

The Indian government requires that 109 specified commodities must be certified by its National Standards body, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).  The list of 109 products includes various food preservatives and additives, milk powder, infant milk food, certain kinds of cement, household and similar electrical appliances, several types of gas cylinders, and multi-purpose dry batteries.

Although BIS’s product standards are essentially voluntary, the Government of India enacted regulations requiring that imports of products on the list are subject to mandatory compliance with specified Indian quality standards, before such goods can be exported to India.  This was done after the removal of India’s remaining quantitative restrictions (QRs) in 2000. 

In general, these products must be tested and certified by BIS in India, however there is also a system in place for foreign companies to receive automatic certification for products they manufacture outside of India.  This allows manufacturers to self-certify, and apply the standards mark on the product after ascertaining its conformity to the relevant Indian Standard.  Prior to this however, (and at the foreign manufacturer’s expense), BIS inspectors travel to the manufacturer’s country to conduct a full inspection of their production facility to pre-certify the company and its production system.   

Trade Policy and Free Trade Agreements

India was a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as well as its successor, the World Trade Organization.  India has transformed itself from a largely closed economy, relying on import substitution and high tariff and non-tariff barriers to a major trading nation.

Although tariff and non-tariff barriers remain, India has made tremendous progress in integrating its economy into the global trade system, and has actively pursued a number of bilateral and regional trade, investment, and economic agreements.  

 According to the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India is currently a party to the following agreements:

  • Agreement of Cooperation with Nepal to Control Unauthorized Trade
  • Agreement on Economic Cooperation between India and Finland
  • Agreement on South Asia Free Trade Area SAFTA
  • Asia Pacific Trade Agreement APTA
  • CECA between The Republic of India and the Republic of Singapore
  • Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between India and Malaysia
  • Global System of Trade Preferences GSTP
  • India Africa Trade Agreement
  • India Chile PTA
  • India Afghanistan PTA
  • India ASEAN Agreements
  • India Bhutan Trade Agreement
  • India Japan CEPA
  • India Korea CEPA
  • India Mercosur PTA
  • India Nepal Trade Treaty
  • India Sri Lanka FTA
  • SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services SATIS
  • Treaty of Transit between India and Nepal

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