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A Parliamentary Committee on Commerce, in a report tabled in Lok Sabha on Thursday, said trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries face the “threat” of China “passing off its own goods” as those from ASEAN countries. The panel attributed this whole problem to “poor Customs infrastructure at the border trade points in the Northeastern region”.

The North East region is the gateway to ASEAN. Of the ASEAN’s member-countries, India shares border with Myanmar along four Northeastern States – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. There are three land Customs stations along the India-Myanmar border at Moreh (Manipur), Zokhawthar (Mizoram) and Nampong (Arunachal Pradesh).

A Times of India report stated that the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, in its report, stated, “The committee is of the view that robust Customs infrastructure is urgently required at Zokhawthar and Nampong. The committee recommends that effort must be made to erect an effective Customs facilitation framework including deployment of adequate number of Customs officials within a fixed timeline of one year.”

The report added, “The committee hopes that this will help smoothen the flow of goods on the border and also act as a bulwark to any attempt of diversion of Chinese goods in the guise of goods of ASEAN States apart from keeping a check on the problem of alleged under-invoicing/smuggling of goods.”

The panel also stated that the pace of implementation vis-à-vis augmenting inland waterways infrastructure in the Northeastern region should be expedited and, at the same time, welcomed the said move.

Criticising the Centre, which has been campaigning for trade links with ASEAN members through the Act East Policy, the House panel stated that it has learnt that the infrastructure and connectivity in the North East border areas are the major factors inhibiting the cross-border trade.

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