'India, China committed to achieve $40 bn trade'

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Beijing, Jan 14: Declaring that India and China were committed to achieving 40 billion US dollar bilateral trade by the end of this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today emphasised that the two countries must create a level playing field by addressing issues as non-tariff barriers, Intellectual Property Rights protection and market-related exchange rates.

''Our bilateral trade with China has doubled in the last two years. Our trade target of 20 billion US dollars by 2008 was reached two years ahead of schedule. The revised target of 40 billion US dollars by 2010 is likely to be achieved two years ahead of schedule,'' Dr Singh told the India-China Economic Trade and Investment Summit.

The Prime Minister urged the captains of Industry to strengthen the base of economic cooperation by exploring opportunities in new areas such as biotechnology, advanced materials, renewable energy and low carbon technologies while continuing to promote investment in traditional sectors like petrochemicals, steel, healthcare, IT and automobiles.

He suggested a three pronged strategy to achieve the objective: developing a strategic plan for future economic cooperation and a road map for its implementation, developing profitable business models based on complimentarity as well as competitive strengths, and to acquire insights into each other's markets, business customs and management styles.

''Our two countries will need to work together to ensure that we contribute to, even as we benefit from, the economic resurgence and integration of Asia. Our two economies are becoming engines of economic growth and must use our natural and human resources, technology and capital for the common benefit of the region,'' the Prime Minister said.

He also urged Indian industry to vigorously pursue opportunities for expanding non-traditional items of export, which would help to bridge the rising trade deficit.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told newspersons that during his talks with his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming, he told him that the growing trade deficit was not desirable. He said China has agreed to send buying missions to India more frequently to promote a diversified basket of exports. The business organisations back home had been asked to house them and find suitable niche areas where India has core competence, he added.

Sharing concerns of the business community, Mr Kamal Nath said the issue of coal and iron imports from China had been up with Chinese authorities and stress was laid on value added products from India rather than empahasising on imports of raw material only.

The issue of China putting a huge cess on coking coal also figured in the discussions. ''There was so much cess in 2005 and today it is as high as 25 per cent. On the other hand we are exporting iron to China at an export duty realisation, of only one per cent,'' the Commerce Minister said.

Mr Kamal Nath said India had lowered the duty at their request and it was now for Chinese side to reciprocate the gesture with regard to coking coal. The Indian steel industry has asked for 40 per cent allocation of coking coal exports for India as China had done for the EU sometime earlier, he pointed out. Fruit and vegetable exports also figured during the interactions.

Mr Kamal Nath observed that India has permission to export only three items from the commodity list of 17 that has been agreed between the two countries.

The Minister also raised two specific areas of market access in the domain of investment-- aviation and entertainment.

China has agreed to give permission to ZEE TV to uplink from here even as it was given permission to broadcast a channel in India.

This would increase interactions in the field of entertainment, Mr Nath pointed out.

Jet Airways may soon get permission to operate flights to Chicago and other US destinations through Shanghai.

Jet Airways Naresh Goyal, who attended the Summit, said if the permission was granted, flight operations may start as soon as next month.

India has already decided to grant permission to Chinese cargo air service to land both at Chennai and Mumbai.

The Prime Minister in his address to the Summit pointed out that competition between two of the most fastest growing economies in the global arena ''is not inconsistent with co-operation nor is it adversarial''. ''Economic cooperation between us has become a principal driver of our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity. Several bilateral understandings and agreements are already in place to address different sectoral aspects which impact on our economic cooperation. India and China working together should develop a habit of mutually advantageous cooperation,'' Dr Singh said.

Dr Singh said he would discuss with the Chinese leadership the feasibility of a India-China Regional Trading Arrangement in the light of a report by the Joint Task Force set up for the purpose.

''The Indian economy has witnessed growth rates of close to 9 per cent per year in the last three years. Our macro-economic fundamentals are strong. Although India is more integrated with the global economy than ever before, the growth has been largely fuelled by an expanding domestic growth. This gives us confidence that we will be able to step up our annual growth rate to 10 per cent within the next five years,'' the Prime Minister said.

He pointed out that there was enormous potential for expansion of bilateral trade and linkages in food processing and services sector.

He assured that the two countries would work together to remove administrative barriers and simplify regulatory regimes in order to move forward in these areas.


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