India, Belgium trade to go beyond diamonds

December 12th, 2010 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Sarwar Kashani
On board Air India One, Dec 12 (IANS) India and Belgium want to diversify their trade ties - currently dominated by diamonds - in sectors like IT, energy and infrastructure development, a senior official said Sunday.”(Indian) Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) and his Belgian counterpart (Yves Leterme) want to diversify the bilateral trade,” said Secretary (west) in the ministry of external affairs Vivek Katju.

Katju was speaking to reporters onboard the prime minister’s special aircraft after Manmohan Singh concluded his two-nation European tour during which he attended an India-EU summit and also held bilateral talks with leaders in Belgium and Germany.

The official said India wanted Belgian companies to invest in India’s ambitious infrastructure development programme.

The focus of Belgium and India’s “expanding ties was on opportunities available in investment in India’s ambitious plan to build infrastructure”, said Katju, referring to the government’s idea of spending $500 billion on infrastructure over the next five years.

He said the focus of the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Leterme was also on cooperation in non-conventional energy sources, education, IT and gems and jewellery.

Belgium is India’s third largest trading partner in the European Union with bilateral commerce touching 7.5 billion euros. But it is dominated by diamonds with 75 percent of the bilateral trade in jewellery.

Forty percent of gems and jewellery in Belgium are imported from India and almost seventy to eighty percent of the Indians staying in the European country are associated with the gems and jewellery trade, according to Belgian Ambassador Jean M. Deboutte.
India is the 13th largest exporter to Belgium and ninth largest importer of Belgium.

Manmohan Singh’s visit to Belgium comes after a trip by its King Albert II, who was in India with his queen on November 2008. Crown Prince Philippe led a large trade delegation to India in March this year and was in India for a week.

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