Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Nov 29, 2003
Industry & Economy
EU must engage with new India: Sinha
(From left): The CII President, Mr Anand Mahindra, the EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Mr Chris Patten, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, the Italian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms Margherita Boniver, and the FICCI President, Dr A.C. Muthiah, at the opening session of the fourth India-EU Business Summit in New Delhi on Friday. Kamal Narang
New Delhi , Nov. 28
TERMING India as the "happening place", the External Affairs Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, on Friday called upon the European Union (EU) to recognise this and engage with the new India.
Delivering the inaugural address at the fourth India-EU business summit here, Mr Sinha said that, "We are looking for partnerships between the new India and the new Europe."
The two-day summit has been jointly organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, among others.
The Minister took the opportunity to call upon the "smart and energetic" business people of the EU to take advantage of the opportunities arising today or "risk missing the bus".
The challenge today, Mr Sinha said, was to give the historical and civilisation ties that exist between India and the EU a new modern dynamic context.
"If you make an investment here, then you are likely to get more money here than if you go to a country to the east of us," the Minister said.
Outlining the advantages of investing in the country, the Minister said not only is the country a democracy, but it also follows the rule of law and had never reneged on any commitment. "There has not been a single instance where justice has not been made available," Mr Sinha said.
On the issue of business process outsourcing, Mr Sinha said it was necessary to realise that India was cheaper and better. "No one is doing business here with a sense of charity," he said.
Turning his attention to the external sector, the Minister said that the country managed its external funds very well and this was only slowly being recognised by the rest of the world.
"The foreign exchange reserves stand at around $ 100 billion and we have a current account surplus. In fact, we are paying bilateral and multilateral loans ahead of time," Mr Sinha said.
Not only does the country have a sound industrial base but exports were also rising and more than 30 multinational companies had set up research and development centres here, he said.
Mr Sinha said that India and the EU need to work on the economic and trade front to "achieve and surpass" the target set at the last business summit.
Earlier, addressing the session, the EU Commissioner for External Relations, Mr Chris Patten, said that India still retained the reputation of being a hard country to do business with.
"Excessive red tape, rigid labour laws and poor infrastructure are the commonly cited constraints by business in the EU," Mr Patten said.
Mr Patten, while accepting that Indian tariffs had come down since the economic reforms began, noted that they were still high as compared to international standards.
The Italian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms Margherita Boniver, termed the holding of the summit as an instrument to underline the importance of the partnership between India and the EU.
She added that investment between India and the EU had risen steadily and between January 1991 and May 2002, there was a rise of a little over 25 per cent in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows.
"The actual FDI inflow from the EU is valued at about $ 4.09 billion which is about 30.5 per cent of all FDI. However, there is still a long way to go before discovering India," Ms Boniver said.
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