States urged to reform, seize export space being vacated by China


China figured prominently at the recent chief secretaries’ conference with at least three presentations focusing on how India must take advantage of the economic space being vacated by China.

ET has gathered that the thrust was on initiating key state-level reforms to increase exports by grabbing the low-skill manufacturing base China is exiting as wages rise there.

“This is India’s Moment. (India can be) a potentially large beneficiary of China + 1 and “friend shoring” as “China (is) vacating low-skilled manufacturing export space,” a JP Morgan presentation at the meet on ‘India’s Growth Imperative and the Role of Exports’ said.

It listed out apparel, ceramics, footwear, leather, iron and steel, furniture and gems and pearls as areas which China is fast vacating. Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Spain, Italy and Germany are among the countries increasing their market share in these sectors as China exits them.

It pointed out that demography is in India’s favour as ‘working age population is to increase even as that of other economies shrink’.

JP Morgan made a strong case for a public capex push to boost near-term aggregate demand, increase private sector investment and utilisation levels in areas that are labour intensive and thereby create blue-collar construction jobs that are needed post- pandemic. It cited the example of China and how its focus on ‘low skill manufacturing pulled labour out of lower-productivity agriculture’.

“India’s endowment/opportunity lies in low skill manufacturing exports, where it is punching much below its weight. Service exports reveal competitive advantage but will impact white collar workers; key is to create more blue-collar jobs,” the financial service provider said.

It noted that the pandemic has made several “non-tradable services” tradable and India is in prime position to capture post-Covid digitisation opportunity provided due policy reforms are undertaken.

Global major Credit Suisse pointed out that ‘the next decade is likely to see a significant shift in production out of China’ and it is ‘India’s game to lose’.

Talking of opportunities in the ‘garments sector’, Credit Suisse observed that while the initial shift away from China benefited Bangladesh and Vietnam, there is a lot more that needs to shift.

“An additional $50b of apparel exports can shift out of China. India has the skills and upstream value chains. Some of the most populous regions with cheapest labour need hubs”, it said in a presentation on the ‘Role of States in India’s Growth Acceleration’.

“Creation of hubs that may be simple to start with, but within a generation innovate to global leadership (e.g., Japan in the 1950s)”, it added.

It mentioned internal as well as external export opportunities in goods and services and specifically mentioned electronics, garments, consumer durables, specialty chemicals, automotive components (particularly EVs) as sectors that have strong potential going forward.

Credit Suisse was emphatic that the next stage of reforms is needed at the state level in urban governance, real estate regulation, agriculture, power distribution, land records modernisation, labour law simplification, pollution control and so on.

China also figured big in the presentation made by the then CEO Niti Aayog Amitabh Kant. He noted that while at the eve of Independence, India was richer than China or Korea on a per-capita basis (PPP terms), today incomes in Korea are 5x that of India’s and China’s 2x of India’s.

High investment and infrastructure growth have driven high growth in Japan, Korea, China and Singapore with China clocking an average real GDP growth of 10% between 1995-2010.



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