India’s economic diplomacy in Latin America is said to acquire an added momentum in days to come with Indian businesses looking at the resource rich-region as a new growth pole and land of opportunity.
The mood was upbeat among India’s corporate elite at the India-LAC Conclave organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that brought together business leaders from India and Latin America and the Caribbean region. India aims to establish deeper trade relations with several Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) economies. India’s bilateral trade with the LAC region has increased significantly from USD 3.7 billion a decade ago to USD 46 billion in 2014-15.
“While the figures I have quoted may seem impressive, I firmly believe that the level of trade and investment between India and LAC countries is not commensurate with the potential that exists,” India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the inaugural session of the two-day 6th India-Latin America and Caribbean Conclave organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The Latin America region offers a huge market for India for pharmaceuticals, leather, automobile parts, engineering goods, textile, information technology oil and gas, minerals and metals, cereals, pulses, oil seeds, soya, fresh fruits and many other products. “Huge complementarities across several sectors exist between India and Latin American economies,” India’s Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said. India needs an investment of USD 1 trillion in physical infrastructure. Half of these investments are expected to come from the private sector, including foreign investments, Ms Teaotia added.
Cuba is the country to watch out for. After the recent rapprochement between US and Cuba, access to Cuba’s markets would give Indian businesses a potential market to benefit from. Brazil is India’s leading partner from the region in many international fora. While there have been high level visits to Brazil, there haven’t been many high level visits from India to some of the other leading LAC countries.
Venezuela is India’s largest trading partner from Latin America and is India’s 26th largest trading partner worldwide. A bulk of India’s oil is imported from Venezuela. As of 2014-15, the bilateral trade between India and Venezuela stood at USD 2.5 billion. India’s bilateral trade with Brazil, which is its 28th largest trading partner worldwide and the second largest in Latin America, stood at USD 2.3 billion. India has a trade deficit with both its Latin American partners. India also has a Preferrential Trade Agreement with MERCOSUR and Chile.
Ms Swaraj pitched the ‘Make in India’ initiative and spoke about the potential for the manufacturing industry in India. She also emphasised on Digital India, Skill India, 100 Smart Cities project and Clean Ganga Mission and asked the LAC countries to partner with India through these initiatives.
Underlining the strategic dimension of relations with this region, Ms Swaraj called for enhancing counter-terror cooperation and asked the LAC countries to support the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. She also spoke about climate change and the importance of reaching a deal in the COP-21 summit in Paris in December.
The minister also sought support of LAC countries for fast-tracking reforms and expansion of the UNSC.
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