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PM tells India Inc to think big

PM Manmohan Singh asks the domestic industry to engage China and to learn to both "compete and cooperate".

world Updated: Jan 13, 2008 19:00 IST
VS Chandrasekar and Raghavendra
VS Chandrasekar and Raghavendra

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday asked the Indian business to "think big" and engage China to learn to both compete and cooperate as top industry leaders asked him to press Beijing for early removal of trade and non-trade barriers.

Singh told a high-level Indian business delegation accompanying him ahead of an India-China business summit that "Indian business should think big. Indian business is ready to face the brave new world of globalisation.

"China is an important part of that brave new world of globalisation. China is an important part of that brave new world. We must engage China and learn to both compete and cooperate."

Singh discussed with India Inc the problems they faced in carrying on trade with China which has a huge surplus in commerce with India. The business leaders apprised the prime minister on the recent trends in bilateral trade and investment flows. They also drew attention to both the opportunities as well as the challenges faced by the Indian business in China.

The prime minister said "the rise of China and India should be viewed as an 'international public good' by the global community since it offered new opportunities to sustain global growth.

"At a time when there are concerns about a global economic slowdown, China and India can sustain global growth through their own development," he said. Singh said it was a "historical necessity" for the two great neighbours to work together.

"There will be areas of competition and there will be areas of cooperation. There is enough space in the world for both countries to continue to grow and address the developmental aspirations of their peoples."

Calling for increased economic engagement between India and China, Singh said that a large part of thinking in India about China was shaped by western views of China and that there was need for greater investment in India in a better understanding of the processes of change in India.

Striking a positive note before talks with the top Chinese leadership, the Prime Minister had said India-China relations were poised to enter a "vibrant and dynamic phase".

Singh said China was India's largest neighbour and a "focal point" of its "Look East" policy. He had also made it clear that India attached "high priority" to strengthening its relations with China.

The business leaders told Singh that they had overcome fears about Chinese imports but there were still areas of concern like very low-priced products from China which were creating problems for Indian industry.

The concerns come against the backdrop of the burgeoning trade surplus to the tune of nine billion dollar in China's favour in the bilateral trade which has touched $38.6 billion in 2007, just short of the target of $40 billion by 2010.

CII President Sunil Bharti Mittal said the industry leaders raised the issue of certain trade-related barriers faced by sectors like pharmaceutical industry on issues like generic product registration in China. "We sought the Prime Minister's help in this regard," Mittal said after the 45-minute interaction with Singh.

FICCI President F Khorakiwala said the trade deficit between the two countries was significant mainly because the Chinese products were competitive creating problems for the Indian industry which should take it up as a challenge.

He said while India was open in the area of media content, there were a lot of restrictions in China. "We are asking for reciprocal rights in China," Khorakiwala said.

Ranbaxy Executive Director Ramesh L Adige said the pharmaceutical industry wanted fast-track registration of generic pharma products in China conforming to international standards of 12 to 18 months as against two to three years being taken now.

Prime Minister's Secretary TKA Nair, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao attended the discussions with the industry which was represented by CEOs including Mittal, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal, NIIT Chairman RS Pawar, Zee Chairman Subhash Chandra, Hero Honda Motors MD Pawan Munjal, Wockhart Chairman and FICCI Secretary General Amit Mitra and IL and FS CEO Hari Shankaran.