Minister for State for Commerce and Industry, calls for closer Economic engagements with Colombia

Shri Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, the Minister for State for Commerce and Industry, led a delegation of officials, CEOs and other business delegates to Bogota, Colombia during 6-7 July 2012.

On the first day of the visit, Minister Scindia had a detailed delegation level bilateral talk with Dr. Carlos de Hart , Vice Minister of Commerce, Government of Colombia. Both Ministers expressed their satisfaction that considerable substance and contents had been added to bilateral relations during the last 5 years and reiterated their mutual desire and commitment to further strengthen the existing trade and investment relations and all-round bilateral cooperation. However both leaders agreed that the current level of trade and investment is well below the potential and that calls for focused efforts by the two countries. They also agreed on the need to widen the trade basket. Recently enforced Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement(BIPPA) between the two countries which came into effect on June 25, 2012 was welcomed by both leaders. Mr Scindia urged the Colombian minister to expedite the ratification of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement(DTAA) from the Colombian side as such measures will help build the investor™s confidence on both sides. The Colombian Minister Dr. Hart stated that enhancing economic engagement with India is a priority of the Colombian Government and he expects the Colombian Parliament to ratify the DTAA by this year end. The Colombian Minister also appreciated the contributions being made by Indian companies in Colombian economy and invited them to investment in India. The Indian Minister of State, in particular, mentioned about the complementariness between the Indian and Colombian economy which needs to be exploited for the mutual benefit. Colombia is quite rich in natural resources such as Petroleum, Coal , Minerals and India needs such resources to sustain its high growth rate. On the other hand, India™s strength and expertise in IT, Manufacturing, Pharma, Biotech and Railway construction can help improve Colombia™s global competitiveness. An MoU signed between the two countries for cooperation in Geology and Mineral exploration also figured in the discussion. During the meeting, Shri Scindia also raised the issues being faced by the Indian companies in Colombia particularly in Petroleum and IT sector and requested the Colombian side for early resolution of those issues. The Indian Minister mentioned about delay in granting environment Clearance by Colombian authorities to ONGC Videsh Ltd and suggested that such delay, if unavoidable, must result in automatic extension of the block exploration period. The limit of 10% on employment of foreign professionals in IT sector in Columbia was also raised by the MoS and he requested the Colombian Minister to consider relaxation in this rule to encourage Indian IT companies to operate in Colombia. MoS also suggested setting up of India Colombia Joint Working Groups in potential areas such as Pharma/Biotech, Information Technology, FMCG , Auto/Engineering and Textiles sectors to help identify specific opportunities and also the impediments confronting our bilateral cooperation in these areas. The Colombian Minister agreed to send a draft proposal.

Sri Scindia also had bilateral talks with Mr. German Arce, the Colombian Vice Minister of Finance, during which the entire spectrum of economic bilateral relations and identified measures for deepening these relations in the commercial and economic, technical and scientific, and educational and cultural fields were reviewed. The discussion during the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to review the current state of on-going cooperation in diverse fields such as Pharmaceuticals, Information and Communication Technology, Tourism, Power & Energy, etc. Mr. Scindia appreciated the steps taken by the Colombian government such as setting up of Free Trade Zones, attractive tax incentive etc. to improve the investment climate.

The Minister of State later addressed the first meeting of the India Colombia Business Forum and invited the Colombian companies to participate in the on-going infrastructure upgradation in India and highlighted the investment requirement to the tune of US$ One trillion in infrastructure development in the next five years. This event was organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry and ANDI, the Colombian apex business body. Addressing the business leaders of the two countries, Mr. Scindia talked about shift in global economic equation and the increasing share of the emerging nations, and accordingly, emphasised need for intensifying engagement between emerging nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

On July 7, 2012, the MoS unveiled a bust of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore at Instituto Caro y Cuervo (Yerbabuena) in the Colombian capital. Addressing the audience, he recalled the vision of peace and fraternity brought forth by Gurudev through his works and stated that those values continue to have relevance and global appeal even today.

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