16-04-2018

India pitches for soybean exports to China amid US trade spat

Sharply criticising protectionist policies of western countries, India offered to export soybean and sugar to China amid the tariff spat between Beijing and Washington and sought major Chinese investments specially in India’s housing-for-all project. “You import a lot of agricultural products, up to USD 20 billion or more,” NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said in his address to the fifth India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED). “I was noticing that there are some tariffs you imposed on farmers’ from Iowa and Ohio. Maybe India can substitute for soybean and sugar, if we could access those exports with all the due quality considerations to our farmers. That is very useful,” he told the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) He Lifeng. Both, Kumar and He led the India-China SED here which broadly covers various aspects of economic and trade relations between the two countries.

It was not held last year amid the Dokalam standoff. The meeting took place amid growing rapprochement between the two countries after the standoff. Yesterday, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held wide ranging talks with top official of the ruling Communist Party Yang Jiechi to step up engagement between the two countries. Kumar’s pitch for soybean and sugar exports to China came amid the ongoing trade spat between US and China following which Beijing has slapped 25 per cent tariffs on American soybean imports in a tit-for-tat retaliation to President Donald Trump camping tariffs on range of Chinese products. Trump is pressuring China to reduce the USD 375 billion trade deficit with America to USD 100 billion.

China had hit back with tariffs on a wide variety of agricultural products such as soybean, corn, beef, orange juice and tobacco which are expected to hit American farmers. Soybean is regarded as most important for US farmers as China is the largest importer. Making a case for China to look at Indian agricultural exports in view of the trade spat, Kumar, in his opening address, made a thinly veiled attack on US and Western countries’ protectionist policies. He said a synchronised recovery was taking place in the world economy after a long time. “But this is marred and disrupted by unseemingly protectionist noises that are coming out from the Atlantic basin from North America and Europe,” he said.

The emerging economies of Asia continue to grow at very good rates with China growing at 6.8 per cent and India at 7 or 7.2 per cent,” he said. “Our rate average growth for the next five years until 2022 should be between 8.5 to 9 per cent,” he said, highlighting reforms undertaken by the BJP-led NDA government. “This will imply that India will join China, and work with China as an important anchor and driver of the global growth in the future,” he said. Kumar also made a strong pitch for Chinese investments specially in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheme for housing for all Indians by 2022. Kumar said there is immense potential to set up special
clusters for Chinese investments like textiles, leather, food processing, electronic components and pharmaceuticals. “We could take the lead in identifying the clusters and make them a reality,” he said. Inviting China to join the India-led International Solar Alliance project, Kumar said Beijing had made “tremendous progress” in solar technology and called for joint collaboration in R&D.

“We are keen that this investment take place in our country. We will do whatever to get the investment done. We want to collaborate on advanced R&D in renewable and solar energy in alternate materials for improving the lives of batteries. Joint research work will be a very good signal and also produce very good results going forward,” he said.
He also called on China to allow more Indian films to be screened in the country as well as exports of pharmaceuticals from India with huge active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) being imported from China.

Considering the massive success of ‘Dangal’ and several other Indian films in China, the two countries should form two more steady groups on culture and pharmaceuticals. Currently under the SED, India and China have five working groups which include infrastructure, high-tech, energy, resource conservation and policy coordination. He also asked China to liberalise the visa regime for Indian businessmen following the pattern of India which is providing three months’ multiple visas for Chinese traders. “This is a sincere request for reciprocity which is that we have liberalised all the business regimes for Chinese businessmen. It will help Indian investors who are very keen to come to China,” he said. He suggested extension of India’s IT corridor in Chinese city of Dalian to the rest of Chinese provinces to combine India’s software with China’s hardware. In his address, He Lifeng said China will study Kumar’s proposals and will have further discussions on them. The SED provides an important platform for both sides to discuss key economic issues impacting both countries and areas of mutual interest, an Indian Embassy press release said.

Source: PTI

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