Kamal Nath, Peter Mandelson to meet
India's Commerce Minister said the proposed meeting was aimed at exploring "what is your problem, what is your last line".
India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath who is visiting London is scheduled to meet Peter Mandelson, Europe's Trade Commissioner on Wednesday. This is the first significant development since ministers claimed a breakthrough in world trade talks over the weekend at Davos.
They would meet at the Indian High Commission and discuss world trade and specific bilateral issues. Nath said Wednesday meeting was aimed at exploring "what is your problem, what is your last line".
He said trade ministers at the World Economic Forum in Davos agreed a new timetable to strike a deal by the summer after four years of troubled negotiations. The most important step was a deal to move simultaneously on all key issues - agriculture, services and manufacturing - after months of deadlock over the thorny issue of farm subsidies.
Mandeslon had also commented, "I think we've turned a corner on that this week."
Ministers have given themselves until the end of April to resolve a list of 33 issues and agreed to hold bilateral meetings to speed up the process.
At the meet with business leaders from the Commonwealth Nath told them India is rapidly ascending from being a base for low-end processes and operations to high-end research and development in sectors like pharmaceuticals and avionics that can make it a vibrant source of intellectual capital for the world.
"Today, we are immensely proud to be the 'default choice' as the world's back-office. Our IT-enabled and other services exports top $40 billion a year. We have also evolved into a low-cost base for a range of goods and services.
"India, at the same time, is rapidly ascending the knowledge chain. We are no longer a base only for low-end processes and operations. The unique combination of IT, biotech and a strong pharma and bulk chemical manufacturing base means that high-end R&D in sectors like pharmaceutical research, avionics can put India on the global knowledge map as a vibrant source of intellectual capital for the world," he said.
The next step, he said was "to move from BPO to EPO (Engineering Process Outsourcing) and even to KPO (Knowledge Process Outsourcing)."
He added, "India also has a foreign exchange reserves of $150 billion, and whose merchandise exports will touch $100 billion this year. A transformation in the collective international mindset is taking place so that the world perceives us as more than just a base for low-cost operations. We are achieving an excellence in manufacturing reflected in a 12 per cent growth in our industrial sectors and this is the critical transition that is necessary for a truly robust economy."
He said the country was on the way towards making a transition as a growing number of Indian companies were emerging as global players." Last year, for instance, Indian companies paid almost $2 billion - five times the amount for all of 2001 - to acquire 62 overseas companies. "Indian firms are actually becoming global and if the trend continues, we will have a host of home grown multinational companies operating all around the world."
He said India's 'Look East' policy had contributed hugely to the new paradigm as India's Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore had accelerated investments from there and India's trade with China leapfrogged from a billion dollars a month to one billion dollars a day.
"Free Trade Agreements with countries as diverse as Sri Lanka and Chile, Thailand and Mauritius, and with the MERCOSUR countries of Latin America and the South Africa Customs Union countries were all part of a trend towards forging stronger relationships and maximising economic opportunities from some of the world's most dynamic economies," Kamal Nath said and called for building a stronger economic relationship between India and the Commonwealth countries in general and Britain in particular.
Earlier, the Minister attended a luncheon meeting organised by the High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma to meet the UK Commons Select committee on Trade and Industry and gave a perspective on the qualitative change in India's economic performance and policy environment and openness to partnership in all areas.
The minister invited all members of the committee, which comprises representatives of all major political parties and its Chairman Peter Luff to visit India and get a feel of the economic transformation that was taking place in the country.