India, South Africa look to expand trade and investment

September 2nd, 2010 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Sep 2 (IANS) India and South Africa are trying to strengthen trade links, constituting sector-specific task forces to jointly explore business opportunities and putting on the fast track mutually beneficial trade agreements.
A business delegation, led by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and comprising top executives from India Inc like Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, was on a four-day-long business event here which ended Wednesday evening.

Among the various positive outcomes during the “India Show” — a promotional event jointly organised by India’s commerce and industry ministry, and industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Johannesburg, was the signing of a comprehensive investment and preferential trade agreement between the two countries.

During an interaction with his South African counterpart, Rob Davies, Sharma said both sides would try to resolve all pending issues so that a preferential trade agreement (PTA) reducing duties on collaborative investments could be signed at the earliest.

India also asked the South African government to expedite discussions on a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA).

Corporate leaders from both countries meeting under the reconstituted India-South Africa CEOs forum agreed to form four sectoral groups in the key areas of energy, financial services, mining and infrastructure, with chief executives of leading companies from the respective sectors as members.

They also agreed to jointly explore business opportunities in the rest of Africa in diverse fields such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare, food processing, automobiles, components, biotechnology, information technology, telecommunications, infrastructure, roads and railways.

Tata said the two economies should take advantage of the inherent synergies to form more partnerships.

He said South Africa can be used as a gateway to distribute products to the rest of the continent, owing to its strategic location and knowledge.

CII president Hari Bhartia said Indian pharmaceuticals companies were increasingly setting up base in South Africa, and that India-South Africa partnerships could be used to supply affordable, life-saving drugs into the rest of the continent.

The CEO’s forum, which is headed by Tata, is scheduled to be held in New Delhi in March 2011.

The two-way trade stood at $7 billion last year. India is one of South Africa’s top ten investors.

Sharma said he hoped the trade target of $10 billion set for 2012 could be achieved in 2011 itself, given the the current trend in bilateral trade.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who inaugurated the event, pushed for greater trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Sharma Thursday went to Ghana. During his two-day visit, the commerce ministry will attend a business round table of CEOs.

The India Show here saw India displaying its “soft power”, featuring its culture, cinema, fashion and cuisine. Leading designers Satya Paul and Manish Malhotra displayed Indian traditional attires to project Indian culture.

As part of the show, an India Food Week was also organised in collaboration with Taj Mahal Hotel. It was inaugurated by Sharma and South Africa’s International Relations Minister Maite Mashabane.

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