India offers to supply soybean to China at high-level economic dialogue
India on Saturday offered to help China meet its demand for soybean and sugar in the wake of Beijing proposing hefty duties on imports of American commodities because of trade tensions with Washington.
New Delhi made the offer at the latest session of a bilateral economic dialogue, which had been suspended following the military standoff at Doklam near the Sikkim border last year.
Pitching these items to China, Niti Aayog vice-chairperson Rajiv Kumar said Beijing annually imports agricultural products worth billions of dollars but it had recently proposed duties on the two commodities usually imported from US states such as Iowa.
That is where India could come in by exporting the items to China.
Kumar was speaking at the 5th India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue between the National Institution for Transforming of India (NITI) Aayog and China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), chaired by He Lifeng.
The resumption of the mechanism indicates both countries want to move on from the military face-off, which took ties to a fresh low, and concentrate on strengthening cooperation in trade and commerce.
China recently proposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans as part of a trade dispute that escalated when the US administration unveiled plans to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports. China matched the US tariffs with plans to levy duties on $50 billion of US products.
“Maybe India can substitute for some of the items like soybean and sugar,” Kumar said, adding China could offer favourable terms to farmers.
Kumar also urged China to liberalise its movie quote system to allow the screening of more Indian films, and sought Chinese investment in affordable housing projects in India.
Indian movies have done very well at the Chinese box office since last year, raking in millions of dollars.
Kumar also asked China to increase the number of working groups under the dialogue mechanism – currently five groups focus on infrastructure, hi-tech, energy, resource conservation and policy coordination - to include pharmaceuticals and culture. The working group on infrastructure discussed various areas of cooperation, including setting up of manufacturing units by Chinese companies in India instead of just selling products.
He Lifeng said India and China have more shared interests than frictions and that Beijing wants to carry on “our traditional friendly relations with India (and) create a new future”.
He said the economic dialogue is important to implement the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BRICS Summit at Xiamen last September.
The working groups discussed the possibility of aligning the Make in India Initiative and Made in China 2025.
“The Indian side took this opportunity to express concerns regarding growing trade imbalance with China and huge untapped potential of India’s exports to China by addressing market access issues,” an Indian embassy statement said.