Customs begins clearing stuck Chinese shipments

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Indian customs began clearing shipments of Chinese origin that had been stuck at ports for the past 10 days after border tensions escalated. Consignments started moving Wednesday after several representations by multiple industry bodies to various ministries including finance, commerce and industry, chemicals and fertiliser and MSME as well as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

India Inc had petitioned the PMO as delays were hurting the process of normalisation that had begun June 1 with Unlock 1.0. Indian industry relies heavily on inputs from China for its factories and the development threatened to disrupt production. “Goods are being cleared now… All ports are clearing without 100% physical checking,” a government official told ET. Shipments for which documents were filed up to June 30 will be cleared in this round and no call has been taken on bills of entry submitted after that, he said.

List of Cos Given to Customs

Officials at customs brokers’ associations in New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai confirmed the development. However, clearances will continue for imports by US and South Korean companies even after June 30, said a person with knowledge of the development. Officials said a list of companies had been provided to the customs authorities for clearing their consignments without physical checks.

Indian customs authorities at all ports and customs freight stations made 100% physical checks mandatory for all Chinese imports from June 22, bringing clearances to a halt. While there was no official instruction to this effect, authorities said checks were being carried out based on intelligence alerts about narcotics. The exercise began at Chennai, which receives a bulk of Chinese telecom equipment coming into India besides medical devices and auto components, and soon spread to other ports. The move, soon after the border incident, was seen by industry watchers as a signal by the government to industry to diversify its supply base.

Relaxations were first allowed for US companies such as Apple, Dell, HP and Cisco as well as South Korea’s Samsung. This was later extended to importers of active pharmaceutical ingredients. It is likely that these relaxations will continue for shipments after June 30 as well, a person familiar with the development said. Physical checks can be cumbersome and a costly affair for the industry as goods can get damaged in the re-packaging process. India imported goods worth $62.4 billion from China in the April-February period of FY20 compared with $70.3 billion in FY19.

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