Trade is an indispensable means for sustaining the economic growth and development of a nation. In India, the main legislation governing foreign trade is the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992. As per the provisions of the Act, the Government of India formulates and announces a foreign trade policy and amends it from time to time. The new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) announced in August, 2004, covering a five year period of 2004-2009 is a comprehensive policy for the overall development of India's foreign trade sector. It is built around two major objectives :- (i) to double India's percentage share of global merchandise trade within the next five years; and (ii) trade to act as an effective instrument of economic growth by giving a thrust to employment generation.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is the most important organ concerned with the promotion and regulation of foreign trade in India. The Ministry has an elaborate organizational set up to look after the various aspects of trade. Its two important offices concerned with trade are the 'Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)' and the 'Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S)'. DGFT is responsible for implementing the Foreign Trade Policy/Exim Policy with the main objective of promoting Indian exports. It also issues licences to exporters and monitors their corresponding obligations through a network of regional offices. DGCI&S is entrusted with the work of collecting, compiling and publishing/ disseminating trade statistics and various types of commercial information required by the policy makers, researchers, importers, exporters, traders as well as overseas buyers.
India is also engaged in trade negotiations and agreements at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels. It is interacting with international agencies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the United National Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), etc as well as with individual countries or group of countries on a wide range of issues including tariff and non-tariff barriers, international commodity agreements, preferential/free trade arrangements, investment matters, etc. Some of the major regional trading arrangements that India has entered into include:- Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA); Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA); Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and India; etc.