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Business, climate change focus of Blair visit

Blair's delegation includes 46 CEOs, including British Telecom, BAT, Barclays and others.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2005 15:28 IST

India, along with the US, has emerged as the second-most favoured investment destination for multinational corporations, says new data published ahead of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's two-day visit to India beginning on Wednesday.

The figures, contained in new surveys of experts and multinational corporations conducted by the UN trade and development agency UNCTAD, shows China as the world's favourite destination for foreign direct investment.

In the table of what MNCs consider to be the most attractive business locations up to 2006, China leads with 87 per cent while India and the US are tied at second place with 51 per cent.

India comes in third place in the foreign direct investment (FDI) experts' list - behind China and the US, according to the table published on Monday.

The figures come as Blair leads a high-power business delegation to India seeking fresh trade and investment opportunities.

Blair's delegation includes 46 chairmen and CEOs of British companies, including British Telecom, BAT, Barclays and Glaxo Smith Kline Beecham.

"The focus is very much on high-quality trade and high-quality investment," a spokesman for Blair's office said.

Another issue Blair is likely to focus on is climate change. According to some British media reports, Blair will try to seek India's cooperation in hammering out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol - the international treaty on climate change.

Blair comes to India after spending two days in China, where, as current chair of the European Union, his main effort was to try and break the impasse over Chinese textile exports to Europe.

Both India and China are priorities in Britain's trade and investment strategy.

"China and India are changing the shape of global competition," said Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industries, who is accompanying Blair.

"Both benefit from increasingly skilled and low-cost labour and have an almost insatiable appetite for risk and hard work.

"Their clear focus on growth and competition is to be admired."

India and China, accounting for more than a third of the world's population, also represent a lucrative market for British goods and services. "They represent a growing market for value-added goods that we can produce and deliver," Jones said on Monday, adding that only one percent of British exports go to China and India.

Blair will lead two summits in New Delhi -- an India-EU summit and a bilateral one.

According to reports here, a major business focus for Blair will be to try and sell Europe-made Airbus aircraft to Indian airlines. These deals could be worth more than $2 billion.

Business ties are growing, but both countries are keen to give them further momentum. Already 60 per cent of Indian investment to Europe comes through Britain. Trade between India and Britain is worth $10 billion and Britain is the fifth largest investor in India.

A million people travel between India and Britain every year -- a factor behind plans for Blair and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sign an air services agreement.

"Relations are in great order, and there's a genuine partnership," the spokesman said. "We want to make it even better."

Indian business leaders, on a recent trip to London, complained that overall British investment in India is beginning to slip. The British say India needs to roll out further economic reforms.

First Published: Sep 06, 2005 15:28 IST