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External Affairs Minister’s Speech on “India-Latin America & Caribbean: The Way Forward” at the CII India-LAC Conclave Valedictory Session

December 10, 2013

H.E. Mr Samuel Santos, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicaragua
Distinguished Ministers, Vice-Ministers from Latin America & the Caribbean Region
Mr Dhruv Sawhney, Former President, CII
Mr Suketu Shah, Chairman, CII LAC Committee & Joint Managing Director, Mukand Ltd
Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General, CII
Distinguished Delegates

I am truly delighted to be present at the concluding session of the CII India-LAC Conclave, which in my view is a very significant initiative by CII. I am very pleased to be in the midst of eminent leaders from India and the LAC countries who have demonstrated remarkable stakeholder interest in deepening India-LAC business ties through active participation in the deliberations and meetings held at this venue over the last two days.

In Spanish there is a famous saying "A buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastan ” meaning - To someone with good understanding, only a few words are necessary. So keeping with that let me try to give a snapshot of our relations with the Latin American countries and the Carribean.

Very recently I had an opportunity to visit Brazil (October 2013). Before that I had covered some parts (Chile and Argentina – 4-10 February 2013) in the region of Latin America. I could clearly notice that the region is fast emerging as one of the major growth engines of the world. This dynamic region accounts for a combined GDP of US$ 6.9 trillion, a trade turnover of US$ 2.1 trillion and a population of 600 million people. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows into Latin America touched a new record high of US$ 166 billion in 2012. The Global Financial Crisis that we all experienced in varying degrees has exposed the fault lines in the global economy. However, during this period, the emerging economies came to the rescue of the global economy. The annual GDP growth rates of the region have been very encouraging indeed.

The LAC region is also endowed with immense supplies of natural resources such as fresh water, arable land, minerals and hydrocarbons. This region includes five of the world’s most bio-diverse countries - Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. India wishes to build a long lasting, enduring relationship with LAC. In many ways, India and LAC countries are natural partners because of their shared understanding of the values of democracy, rule of law, justice and equality.

The India-LAC business partnership has grown steadily over the last decade and more. It is a matter of satisfaction that our trade and investment relations with LAC region are growing rapidly. From a mere US$ 2 billion in 2000 bilateral trade has crossed a record US$ 46 billion in 2012. This marks a remarkable 20 fold increase in trade. We have Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Mercosur (Southern Market) trade bloc and with Chile. However, the trade figure is not reflective of the true potential of our economic engagement. We need to do more and expand and diversify our trade basket.

I am very encouraged to see the increasing presence of Latin America in New Delhi. This will help to extend better consular services and faster issuance of Visas, a per-requisite for any business engagement. By taking the initiative to organise this Conclave we are making a serious effort to reach out to LAC Countries especially to the business houses and other enterprises so that businesses from both sides can see for themselves the enormous opportunities that exist between India and the LAC region. I am extremely pleased to say that the India-LAC partnership is one of the high points of South-South Cooperation initiatives.

LAC region is undergoing rapid integration process which culminated in the formation of CELAC (Community of Latin America and Caribbean States). In recognition of the growing importance of our mutually beneficial relationships with LAC region, the first India-CELAC Foreign Ministerial Meeting in the Troika format was held on August 7, 2012. The two sides have agreed to set up several institutional mechanisms to further strengthen and deepen our relations viz. CEOs Forum, Joint Business Council, S&T Forum, Energy Forum, Agriculture Expert Group and Think Tank Forum. Further, India agreed to share its technology in e-governance, Tele-education and Tele-medicine and also offered to provide weather forecasting and mapping of mineral resources in LAC region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we set out to explore the new possibilities in India-LAC business engagements, we need to be cognizant of the new paradigms that are shaping the global economy. I would like to add that new developments in India-LAC economic engagements will also have a big impact on global trade and investment flows. Therefore, the deliberations at this Conclave and the recommendations made thereof will no doubt have a key bearing on a gamut of international economic engagements..

I am happy to see that the partnerships that emerge from this event and other major India-LAC engagements are cross-cutting, involving both large and small and medium enterprises. New generation SMEs are in the forefront of industrial innovation and competitiveness, so we must direct ample attention to bringing SMEs from both regions on a common platform. We are also seeing a steady increase in Indian participation in projects in LAC countries, supported by co-financing schemes, Lines of Credit etc. Closer business engagements are also paving the way for seamless transfer of technology. I can see a growing appetite for Indian technologies that are highly ‘Adaptive’, ‘Affordable’ & ‘Appropriate’ to the needs of emerging and developing economies in the LAC region.

Government of India has played a major role in stepping up our engagement with the LAC region, through our ‘Focus LAC’ programme that got underway in 1997. This programme enabled Indian industry to target LAC markets for project exports, and export of industrial goods and services. I must add that the LAC Governments have also taken proactive steps to promote business linkages with India. Now the onus is on industry to take our bilateral partnership to a new high. Perhaps, businesses on both sides could consider creating business-enabling initiatives like an India-LAC CEOs Forum, Business Forums and the like. These forums will not only connect business leaders on a continuous basis, but also help companies identify the new business opportunities in India and LAC countries, and also gain a better understanding of prevailing business and investment regulations.

Ladies and Gentlemen

This Conclave is not about sharing ideas alone. Real business negotiations have taken place at this venue. Projects of large magnitude have been discussed and several proposals for M&As were evaluated. The deliberations and meetings centered on key and strategic areas like agriculture & food processing, pharmaceuticals & healthcare, power & energy, oil & gas, automobiles, auto components & transportation, infrastructure, mining and mining equipment, IT & BPO, machinery including material handling equipment, bio-fuels and chemicals, tourism, project exports, etc. (detailed programme and agenda attached given in folder)

While the decision makers participating in this Conclave are largely guided by the objective of enhancing India-LAC economic and business partnerships, there is a clear recognition on both sides that the India-LAC partnership itself has a high degree of global responsibility. Hence, this Conclave was also oriented to key global issues like the reform of international financial and monetary systems, democratization of international bodies like the UN, strengthening of global food and energy security, climate change mitigation, promotion of green growth, poverty alleviation and realization of MDGs, promotion of education and health across global societies, and so on. Taking cognizance of the pre-eminent role of this Conclave in meeting our national and international goals, we reaffirm our desire to organize this Conclave every year.

I once again thank our friends from the LAC countries for travelling great distances to participate in this Conclave, making this event such a big success. I thank every one of you for your great contributions to strengthen India-LAC partnerships.

Thank you!
Ladies & Gentlemen and Amigos

New Delhi
December 10, 2013

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