The states will soon be allowed to form their own Export Promotion Councils, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as he underscored the need for the Centre and states to work in tandem to give a fresh thrust to exports.
He also stressed upon the need for swift removal of obstacles stalling the Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
"We at the Centre have to team up with the state governments for export promotion and the states should also work hard individually to help drive exports," Modi said, addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust SEZ here.
Modi said the Centre had recently convened a meeting with states to identify the bottlenecks in exports and states would be given the right to set up their own Export Promotion Councils to drive foreign trade at the local level, hinting that they should not depend solely on the Central government interventions.
At present, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry at the Centre plays the role of a facilitator for pushing exports.
The states, Modi said, should also compete with each other in enhancing exports and focus on development of markets abroad, he said.
Voicing concern at a large number of stalled SEZ projects across the country, the Prime Minister said a high-level team has been constituted to review the problems and resolve them at the earliest.
"In the PMO, there is a special team to look into why SEZs are not finding takers and to suggest solutions for the benefit of the entire country," he said.
"Until we join manufacturers in export promotion, and unless States and Centre work together, we cannot achieve new heights in exports," he said.
Modi stressed the need for shifting focus from port development to 'port-led development' model to maximise gains.
The government, he said, had conceived 'Sagarmala', an ambitious project for maritime states, envisaging not merely port development, but port-led development which would include ports, SEZs, rail, road, air and waterway connectivity with the hinterland, including linkages of cold storage and warehousing facilities.
Noting that two-third of all global trade and 50 per cent of container trade happens through the Indian Ocean, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the ports sector. "Ports can become gateways to India`s prosperity," he added.
Drawing from global experience where nations with good port facilities have achieved faster growth, Modi said coastal states in India should also seize the opportunity.
Speaking at the function earlier, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said 23 of the 146 SEZ applicants in the state had abandoned their plans due to unfavourable policies.
Clarity of taxation, especially on the dividend distribution tax, was a key hindrance, Chavan said, requesting the Centre to bring about necessary policy changes.
In his speech, Modi said he wondered as to why the state government was unable to persuade the previous Congress-led UPA government to effect these changes.
The government, Modi said, had recently done away with the requirement of renewal of shipping licences every year and now they would be granted for lifetime. He lauded Union Minister for Shipping Nitin Gadkari for the move.
The Prime Minister said shipbuilding had emerged as a big opportunity and noted the strides that South Korea had taken in the sector.
Elaborating his theme of "Come, make in India", which he mentioned during his Independence Day address, Modi said his government will encourage foreign investment in ship building.
Some, Modi said, had misconstrued his message and clarified he was inviting people to use the country as a manufacturing hub.
In his address, Gadkari said the JNPT SEZ would provide employment to 1.5 lakh people. The 277-hectare multi-product SEZ is to be developed at an investment of Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion).
Gadkari said priority will be given to the sons of the soil for jobs at the SEZ.
Modi also handed over land and monetary compensation to project affected people and laid the foundation stone for a Rs 1,900-crore (Rs 19 billion) road widening project inside the port.