News Details

Gold, silver import from UAE surges 210%, need duty revision in FTA

United Arab Emirates

Gold & Jewelry

20-06-2024

India's gold and silver imports from its free trade agreement (FTA) partner UAE have skyrocketed 210 per cent to $10.7 billion in 2023-24 and there is a need to potentially revise the concessional customs duty rates under the pact to mitigate the arbitrage driving this surge, a report said on Monday. Economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) said this sharp rise in gold and silver imports is primarily driven by import duty concessions granted by India to the UAE under the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). India allows 7 per cent tariffs or customs duty concessions on import of unlimited quantities of silver and a 1 per cent concession on 160 metric tonnes of gold. CEPA was signed in February 2022 and implemented in May 2022. Additionally, India facilitates gold and silver imports by allowing private firms to import from the UAE through the India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX) in Gift City. Previously, only authorised agencies could handle such imports, the report said.
"While India's total imports from the UAE fell 9.8 per cent from $53.2 billion in FY23 to $48 billion in FY24, imports of gold and silver skyrocketed 210 per cent, from $3.5 billion to $10.7 billion," it said. "Import of all remaining products fell 25 per cent, from $49.7 billion in FY23 to $37.3 billion in FY24," it said. GTRI Founder Ajay Srivastava said the current import of gold and silver from the UAE is unsustainable as the UAE does not mine gold or silver or add sufficient value to imports. "High import duties in India on gold, silver, and jewellery at 15 per cent are at the root of the problem.

 

Consider lowering tariffs to 5 per cent. This will cut large-scale smuggling and other misuse," Srivastava said. Trade in gold, silver, and diamonds has been prone to misuse due to their low volume but high value and high import duties in India. Low tariff imports of gold, silver only benefit few importers who keep all profits arising through tariff arbitrage and never pass it to consumers, he said. Srivastava suggested the government implement certain measures to help India balance its trade policies, protect domestic revenue, and ensure fair competition in the import of precious metals and jewellery. It suggested reassessing and potentially revising the concessional duty rates under CEPA to mitigate the arbitrage driving the surge in imports of gold and silver. "At least, implement yearly import quotas (tariff rate quotas) for silver, similar to those for gold, to control the volume of imports and prevent revenue loss," it said, adding that India should rigorously verify the claimed value addition by Dubai-based refiners in gold and silver imports to ensure compliance with CEPA rules of origin. It also asked to tighten regulations around the India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX) at Gift City to control the volume and nature of precious metal imports and the exchange should not allow country-based exemptions. As increased imports contribute to a higher current account deficit and since gold and silver act more like financial instruments than regular trade items, India should avoid including them in any FTA. "India has granted tariff concessions for these items in many FTAs and under the DFTP (duty-free tariff preference) scheme, so a comprehensive review is needed. India announced the scheme for LDCs (least developed countries) in 2008.

 

Under this, India provides duty free/preferential market access on about 98.2 per cent of India's tariff lines (or product categories). Further, the report stated that silver imports from the UAE increased multifold to $1.74 billion in 2023-24 from a meagre $29.2 million in 2022-23 due to India charging an 8 per cent duty under the CEPA versus a 15 per cent duty from other countries. "The large 7 per cent tariff arbitrage resulted in a loss of revenue for India of Rs 1,010 crore in FY24. Revenue loss will increase as India has committed to make tariffs zero on unlimited quantities of silver from the UAE within next 8 years," it added. It said this trade is unusual because the UAE just imports large silver and gold bars, melt and convert these into silver grains and unwrought gold for exports. "A check with global refiners will show that value addition in such process is much less than 1 per cent as opposed to 3 per cent required under the FTA," it said. On gold bars, the report said India agreed to import 200 metric tons of gold annually from the UAE with a 1 per cent tariff concession and due to this gold imports rose 147.6 per cent from $3 billion in FY23 to $7.6 billion in FY24, causing India to lose Rs 635 crore in revenue in FY24. Similarly, India's jewellery imports have increased 187.6 per cent from $1.1 billion in FY23 to $3.3 billion in FY24, whereas these imports from the UAE have increased 290 per cent from $347 million in FY23 to $1.35 billion in the last fiscal.