Vientiane (Laos), Sept.13 (ANI): Visiting Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Monday said that bilateral trade between India and Laos was currently quite modest, and therefore, there was a need to address this aspect of ties on a priority basis.
Stating that bilateral trade was currently pegged at below seven million dollars, Patil told the India-Laos Business Forum that:
"We need to address this problem, so that trade reaches its true potential. We can expand the basket of trade commodities and increase trade volumes by availing of mutually advantageous opportunities that our economies offer."
"The tariff concessions granted by India under the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries and the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement should help stimulate trade. We look forward to the completion of the internal procedures and the notification of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement by the Government of Laos, so that the agreement can come into force for Laos," she added.
The President said that she was happy to be informed by Prime Minister Bouphavanh that the Lao Parliament has ratified the India-ASEAN FTA and only a few administrative formalities were pending for its notification.
Extending an invitation to "all Lao friends" to join the India-ASEAN Business Fair due to be held in New Delhi in March, 2011, Patil said: "We, in India, within the context of our Look East Policy are making concerted efforts to develop links with the dynamic Asia Pacific region."
"In today's meeting we have Indian business leaders who have traveled from India, as also others who have joined us from Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. This shows how much importance our businessmen attach to the wider South East Asian region, within our strong engagement with ASEAN, and our Look East Policy. I would call on them to look at modules that promote business with South East Asian region in an integrated manner," she added.
Patil said that the India-Laos Business Forum provides a very good opportunity to review business relations and set targets for the future.
She further said that economic relations are a very important component of the broader relationship that India and Laos have resolved to develop.
"My visit to Laos has come at a time when there has been an exchange of high level visits. President Sayasone was our guest in India in 2008 and I am now visiting Laos. My extensive discussions with President Sayasone and Prime Minister Bouphavanh during my visit, have assured me that there is a strong commitment in both our countries to intensify our engagement, and strengthen our age old friendship. The excellent political understanding provides a strong foundation for economic and commercial ties. Our business and industry must work together for realizing the true potential in trade and investment," she said.
She also lauded the Government of Laos for maintaining an average GDP growth of 7.8 percent in the last five years, and praised it for setting the goal to move out of the Least Developed Country category by 2020.
"Laos is a country rich in mineral resources like iron ore, copper and gold. It has an enormous hydropower potential. From being a landlocked country it is turning into a land-linked country, by constructing a network of roads. May I add that India is privileged to be a partner of Laos in meeting its development goals and has provided credit lines for projects. A credit line of 72.55 million dollars, which I announced, earlier during my visit is being signed today. I can assure that India will continue to be a development partner of Lao PDR," Patil said.
"There is a great scope for private investments in hydropower, mining, construction, roads, railways, as well as in agriculture, since both our countries have large rural areas. Indian companies have made some investments in Laos. However, I call upon Indian businessmen that considering the opportunities available, to further explore this market. Laos is open to foreign investment and, I understand that a series of business laws have been enacted in Laos to simplify investment procedures and regulations. I think that there is insufficient knowledge in India of this change in Laos, and I call upon this forum to address this issue, so that Lao and Indian businessmen understand each other better," she added.
She also expressed happiness over the news that some major Indian companies are represented in Laos today, as also Indian project development companies working in Laos.
Three major Indian trade bodies, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry are participating. You must take this opportunity of your presence here to acquaint yourselves with the Laos economy.
"The presence of Indian businesspersons here, I would say, reflects interest on their part to explore business opportunities, as also of investment. Representatives from 25 Indian companies as well as from the major Indian business associations - CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM are participating. Similarly, the Laos businesspersons here, I am sure, are eager to explore trade and commercial options in India. I call upon all of you to make your best efforts to further develop our business ties" Patil said.
After her speech, trade bodies of India and Laos signed four bilateral pacts for trade and business cooperation. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)