Chinese, Indian firms to sign contracts worth millions: Minister (Lead)

October 11th, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Chinese companies will sign trade contracts worth “millions of dollars” with their Indian counterparts here Saturday, a Chinese minister said Friday in what appears to be the first major step by the leadership in Beijing to close the yawning trade gap between the two countries.”Tomorrow (Saturday) I and my Indian counterpart will be present at a signing ceremony where contracts worth millions of dollars between Chinese and Indian companies will be signed,” Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng said.

Though Gao did not want to give details of the exact figure of the contracts that will be signed, sources said that over 30 Memorandums of Understanding between Indian and Chinese companies are liked to be inked and their total value has been estimated at over $350 million.

Talking to a select group of journalists here Friday evening after his meeting with Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai, Gao said Saturday’s interactive session between the Indian and Chinese companies will provide the two sides an opportunity to exchange more information about each other.

“The Indian companies can take the opportunity of offering their products to the Chinese, while the latter can make an assessment of the Indian products that will be popular in the Chinese market and among Chinese consumers,” the visiting minister said.

Two-way trade between the two countries has already reached $37.9 billion and is projected to cross the $40 billion mark this year. The trade imbalance is heavily loaded in favour of China at nearly $9 billion.

Gao is heading a 60-member delegation on what is being seen as a “procurement mission” from China to India. This is the largest ever trade and business delegation from China to visit India. The delegation comprises big names like China Chemicals, China Petrol, China Machinery, China Grid and Sino Steel, Sinochem Corporation - all major state-owned enterprises.

The large trade delegation, which had been planned for some months, comes to Delhi at a time when some strains have resurfaced in bilateral relations between the two neighbours following China’s “questionable role” at last month’s meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in Vienna.

At its Sep 6 meeting, the 45-member NSG awarded a waiver to India to allow commerce in nuclear energy and technology with all the countries in the world. Though China, a member of the NSG, was part of the consensus, it had initially tried to resist the Group reaching an agreement in India’s favour.

The attempt on China’s part, therefore, to take urgent steps to fill up the existing trade gap between the two sides is being seen in diplomatic circles as a serious attempt on Beijing’s part to use “trade diplomacy” to restore trust and confidence with India.

“I want to emphasise that the trade imbalance in China’s favour was not on purpose. It was large due to the complimentarities in our two economies,” Gao said.

He pointed out that though Chinese exports to India have been rising, so have Indian exports to China.

“But inspite of this, China attaches great importance to India’s concern over the trade imbalance between the two sides,” the Chinese vice minister added.

Gao also pointed out that trade was only one element in narrowing the gap between the two sides and steps to cooperate with each other on services, joint ventures and infrastructure development could also play an important role in strengthening economic ties between the two countries.

“To narrow the gap further, the Chinese government is willing to facilitate the entry of Indian companies and Indian products in the Chinese market,” Gao added.

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