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IBSA must eye $30-bn trade target: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeks to forge the closest possible cooperation among the IBSA countries.

world Updated: Oct 17, 2007 17:39 IST
VS Chandrasekar
VS Chandrasekar

Seeking to forge the closest possible cooperation among the IBSA countries for ensuring a more equitable international political and economic order, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that India, Brazil and South Africa should achieve a trade target of $30 billion by 2012 for which the business should be pro-active.

"We have set ourselves a modest target of $15 billion by 2010 for trade among our three countries. My suggestion to our business leaders would be to aim to achieve this by 2009 and then go on to double that by 2012. Business must be pro-active," he said at the second IBSA summit in Pretoria.

The summit, hosted by South African President Thabo Mbeki, is being attended by Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, and leaders and officials of the three countries.

The three principals, who had met at the inaugural summit in Brasilia in September last year, also had an interaction with business leaders at the IBSA business council in Pretoria.

Singh assured captains of business in these countries that the government would endeavour to create the necessary environment for closer intra-IBSA trade and investment. "We also hope that the Business Forum will work actively to create awareness of the opportunities that our three large markets provide," he said.

Singh said each of the three countries had strengths in Science and Technology and urged the business leaders present to look at innovative approaches to exploit these strengths including through joint research and development projects, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and information and communication technology.

The Prime Minister said energy security was a major challenge confronting the three nations and they should use synergies in this area to mutual benefit. Brazil has comparative strengths in ethanol and bio-fuels, South Africa in coal to liquid and gas to liquid technologies and India in wind and solar energy. "We need to look at how trilateral ventures in these areas can be made viable business models."

He said business also has a social responsibility. "Within IBSA, we are in the process of elaborating a common Social Development strategy. We would welcome inputs from the business community shape an effective public-private partnership in this area."

In his opening remarks at the plenary of the summit, Singh proposed that the three countries work on one big flagship IBSA project using the Fund for Poverty and Hunger, which would convey their commitment in the area of assisting other developing countries, which is the thrust area of IBSA cooperation. "All developing countries face the challenge of balancing the need for more rapid growth with the need to address the problem of social inequality. Each of our countries has attempted innovative solutions to bring about inclusive growth," he said.

Singh pointed out that lack of adequate connective continued to hamper mutual cooperation and the three countries should reflect on how to encourage air and maritime links, which may not not be commercially viable to begin with.

He said with regard to global issues the three countries were increasingly consulting each other on the margins of major international meetings.

This should be encouraged so that they could have common IBSA positions on important international issues.

Referring to the meeting of the foreign ministers of IBSA last July, the Prime Minister said they should focus time and resources to ensure productive outcomes in agreed priority areas of trilateral cooperation.

He said the IBSA should agree that by the time of the next summit all working groups should complete one cycle of meetings in each of the three countries so that by next year, they should be in a position to take stock of the areas they should concentrate on, and where cooperation was proving useful.

On social development strategy for IBSA, Singh said social development has both national and international dimensions. An effective strategy has to ensure synergy between these two dimensions.

Based on common experiences of the three countries, he said the strategy could emerge from IBSA process having some of the elements like rapid economic growth, inclusivity, human resource development, focus on equitable infrastructure, short term distress mitigation, grassroots institution building, environmentally sound strategies and integration into knowledge economy.

He said the three countries have found a renewed convergence of interests on major international issues of contemporary importance.

"We need to forge the closest cooperation possible so that we can together ensure a more equitable international political and economic order. The world is already looking upon the IBSA framework as a significant step forward in the emergence of a global partnership for development."

On the Doha Round of trade talks, the Prime Minister said this has emerged as an important issue facing the international community, in which each of the three countries has an important stake and have committed themselves to working towards securing a balanced and successful outcome of the talks.

The IBSA, he said, has enabled Parliamentarians, civil society, academia, mass media, women and other segments of society to engage with each other. "We value their contribution in reinforcing the efforts of the three governments. Over a period of time, IBSA should emerge as a people's movement."

The high-level involvement of business and industry in IBSA was particularly encouraging. "Governments can only do so much. We should leverage public-private partnerships to fill funding gaps and increase efficiency in key sectors of our cooperation," he said.

First Published: Oct 17, 2007 15:56 IST

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