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Joint task forces set up to ramp up steel demand

Joint task forces with representatives from ministries like road transport and highways have been set up to examine possibilities to boost steel demand, Parliament was informed on Monday.

"Joint task forces covering railways, urban development, Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways etc have been constituted comprising representatives from ministries concerned and their agencies to assess the possibilities of boosting demand of steel," Minister of State for Steel Vishnu Deo Sai said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

The scope of these committees inter-alia covers codes and standards, life cycle cost analysis, development of designs of various structures and other suitable measures, the minister said.

Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh had earlier said steel demand is expected to improve in coming months on the back of increased spending on infrastructure and long-term government policies.

"The steel demand has grown 3.3 per cent during April-December 2016. This is expected to improve in coming months due to long-term government policies and increase in infrastructure spend," the minister had said.
India had been a bright spot in global economy, he had said, adding that the World Steel Association has predicted that steel demand in India will grow at 5.7 per cent in 2017.

Meanwhile, Japan has asked WTO to set up a panel to help resolve dispute with India over the safeguard measures it has imposed on steel imports, Parliament was informed on Monday. "Japan has requested the WTO Dispute Settlement Body for establishment of the panel in the WTO dispute...alleging that India's safeguard measures on certain iron and steel products are inconsistent with the WTO obligations," Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

She said when the matter was raised by certain members at a World Trade Organization (WTO) council, India conveyed that the measures including minimum import price were taken to address concerns of the domestic industry on unprecedented surge in imports of steel products due to unfair international business practices such as predatory pricing in the sector.

Both the sides have failed to resolve the issue in the bilateral consultation process. Due to this, Japan has sought formation of dispute resolution panel.

Japan in December dragged India to WTO against certain measures taken by New Delhi on imports of iron and steel products. Japan, which is the second largest steel producer in the world, had alleged that duties imposed on steel imports by India violates WTO trade norms. In September 2015, India imposed provisional safeguard duty of 20 per cent on import of certain categories of steel with a view to protect domestic producers. Later in November last year, the government slapped the final duty. As per the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism, the request for consultations is the first step in a dispute. After 60 days, if consultations fail to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
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