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`UK could be India's bridgehead to Europe'

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Aug. 11

THE UK is an international marketplace and one of the best performing economies of the G-7 Group, and if India steps up its international engagement, the UK must be the partner of choice.

Participating in an interactive session organised by the CII-Eastern region here on Thursday, Dr Andrew Hall, British Deputy High Commissioner to Eastern India, said the UK's international role like holding the Presidency of the EU as well as Chairmanship of G-8 nations, made for a special partnership as India goes global.

He said increasingly, most British companies consider it "business critical" to have partnerships in India, "which are vital in developing the competitiveness of British business". Equally, he felt, Indian companies are finding the intellectual capital offered by the UK indispensable in developing their global presence.

Describing UK as India's bridgehead into Europe, Dr Hall said there was now a wide range of opportunities for UK/India with a particular focus on knowledge economy, innovation, science and education. He said, "we can exploit a profound compatibility between our economies and the way we do business."

Suggesting that the challenges however remain, he said, "Infrastructure is still lagging, despite the latest investments, and you have a low tax-GDP ratio (10 per cent) and very low tax collection, with fiscal deficit being a problem at the State level."

Among the other issues he listed were a huge tail — some 300 million people on $1 a day and caught in subsistence agriculture, labour market inflexibilities and the resistance to reform, like for example, for firms employing 100 workers or energy shortages or slow progress on disinvestment.

Dr Hall, however, pointed out that the strengths far outweighed the challenges, suggesting that, with the Government or despite, India was on the move, just as the case with UK.

Citing an ambitious Government agenda to take the economy forward, Dr Hall said it should be in ways, which are directly relevant to emerging India.

The top sectors for UK foreign direct investment, according to him, currently were power and oil & gas, telecom and service industries.

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