April 13, 2018 / 4:55 PM / in 7 months

India's March exports fall amid trade tensions

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s merchandise exports fell for the first time in five months in March and the trade deficit widened amid concerns over global trade and U.S. moves to review a programme allowing duty-free imports of goods.

FILE PHOTO: A fisherman prepares to cast his fishing net in the waters of the Vembanad lake as a container ship is seen docked in the background, at a port in Vallarpadam, in the southern Indian city of Kochi February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Sivaram/File Photo

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said on Thursday it launched reviews over concerns that India and Indonesia were not complying with rules of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme on market access.

New Delhi is worried that its exports of engineering goods and services to the U.S. and China could be hit following a possible slowdown in global trade this year.

India’s merchandise exports in March fell 0.7 percent year-on-year to $29.1 billion, and the trade deficit widened to $13.7 billion due to a surge in imports, government data showed on Friday.

Imports rose 7.2 percent on year to $42.8 billion in March.

For the year ending in March, goods exports rose 9.8 percent to $302.8 billion from a year ago, while imports rose 19.6 percent to $459.7 billion.

Separately, India exported services worth $175.3 billion in first 11 months ending February compared with $105.7 billion imports of services, data from the central bank showed.

The total export numbers bode well for India’s $2.5-trillion economy that is expected to grow over 7 percent in the fiscal year beginning April.

However, the trade deficit for the year ending in March widened to $156.8 billion from $105.72 billion in the previous year, a growing concern for the central bank, the data showed.

Analysts said the U.S. plans to review duty-free imports of certain goods from India and some other countries could affect exports in 2018/19 fiscal year beginning April.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on trade, vowing to slap tariffs on countries that he says use unfair trade practices.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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