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Updated: May 31, 2010 11:25 IST

Patil seeks closer business cooperation

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President Pratibha Patil with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao during her ceremonial welcome in Beijing last week. File photo
President Pratibha Patil with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao during her ceremonial welcome in Beijing last week. File photo

President Pratibha Patil today concluded her first state visit to China asking business leaders of the two Asian giants to develop “models of cooperation” that will address concerns of both sides to forge a long-term partnership and realise their true trade potential.

Describing her six-day visit to China as “very productive”, the President said the relationship between the two countries has the potential to become “one of the biggest economic and business relationships of the century”.

Addressing the India-China Business Forum here on the last day of her visit, Ms. Patil, said there was a need to make India’s export basket fairly representative of its competence.

The first Indian Head of State to visit China in a decade, she said India stands ready to do more business and welcomed investment by Chinese companies.

“For a long-term partnership, it is important that we develop models of cooperation that take into account the concerns of both parties. I am sure that this will happen even as our economic relationship unfolds,” she said.

Lauding the growth in bilateral trade from a modest $ 3 billion in 2000 to an impressive $ 52 billion in 2008, the President said there was still “considerable room” for further expansion.

“India’s export basket to China is not representative of India’s competence in a number of areas - for example pharmaceuticals and engineering products constitute only a small portion. Similarly, India’s vaunted IT industry has a limited presence in the Chinese domestic market,” she said.

“There is good reason to believe that we will achieve the target we have set ourselves, of a $ 60 billion turnover in two-way trade this year,” she added.

During her talks with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, Ms. Patil had sought access to Indian pharmaceutical industry, IT and engineering companies.

“I am confident that there is political will and determination on both sides, to rapidly broaden the vistas of cooperation,” she said.

In 2009, the trade imbalance between the two nations tilted heavily against India. China enjoyed trade surplus of $ 16 billion out of the total $ 44 billion bilateral trade and its exports to India nearly touched $ 30 billion.

Ms. Patil also said for the economic potential to be truly realised, the business, financial and other economic institutions of the two countries will have to get to know each other well and develop “sufficient comfort levels”.

“The impact of our cooperation can be felt around the world,” she said. During the President’s visit, India secured an assurance from China that it will “seriously” address the unviable trade imbalance.

The assurance was conveyed to the President by Chinese Premier Wen and was reiterated in this commercial capital of China by the Shanghai Municipal Communist Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng.

China also opened for the first time its market for Indian agricultural produce by allowing the maiden commercial consignment of mangoes from India.

Emphasising the need for more energetic and focused efforts for “making our presence felt” in China’s markets, Ms. Patil said: “We need more success stories to encourage Indian industry to participate“.

She noted that the meeting of the India-China Joint Economic Group in January had affirmed the need to address challenges of market access and trade imbalance.

She said India was currently China’s 10th largest trading partner and it “must strive to improve on that standing” by focussing on four thrust areas for market development - IT, pharmaceuticals, engineering and agro-products.

“We are large developing economies focused on raising the living standards of our people. There is much that we can do, if we only do it together. The impact of our cooperation can be felt around the world,” she said.

“An important part of the challenge of further developing our ties rests on the shoulders of our business communities. I am confident that you will rise to this challenge,” she said.

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