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U.K. to expand business links across emerging Indian cities

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The United Kingdom will expand business links across emerging Indian cities in 2011-12 as part of its ambition of doubling bilateral trade with India over the next five years, UK's Minister for Trade and Investment Stephen Green said on Friday.

Addressing a press conference here, Lord Stephen said that while bilateral trade was around pound sterling 11 billion in recession-hit 2009, the situation improved substantially in 2010. “We are keen on at least doubling bilateral trade with India in another five years.”

His visit to Chennai caps a week-long Indian tour involving interactions with Union Ministers of Commerce and Petroleum as well as businessmen and investors in Mumbai and Delhi.

Pointing out that while traditionally the business class in U.K. tended to take India for granted and, as a result, lost market share, he said that now there was realisation among British companies about the extraordinary transformation taking place in the emerging market. At the other end of the spectrum, 700 of the Indian companies registered with the European Union are in the U.K.

The UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) agency has been engaging with around 2,000 Indian businesses in over 20 emerging cities. Outreach activities would be strengthened in Coimbatore, Vadodara, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh and Visakhapatnam in the next twelve months, he said.

Lord Stephen hoped that the Doha Round of trade talks would get a move on during 2011, a critical year for the negotiations, and that ongoing efforts to seal a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and India would be concluded by the year-end.

While an early conclusion of the Doha Round would be in the general interest of the world economy — a benefit estimated to be to the tune of $160 billion — an FTA between the EU and India could be a win-win relationship, he said. However, an FTA involves both sides giving ground on sensitive areas; for instance, the services sector for India and agriculture and people movement for the EU. “It is important not to see it (FTA) as a zero-sum game as overall the whole thing is a gain for both sides.”

British Deputy High Commissioner in southern India Mike Nithavrianakis said that the outreach programme provided an understanding on the growth potential and sectoral strengths, especially in the Tier II and Tier III cities. John Saville, UKTI, London and Jamie Cribb, Head, UKTI, Chennai also participated.

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