Sweden is keen on expanding its business and investment legacy in India as it explores symbiotic trade ties across a range of sectors, Ambassador of Sweden to India Lars-Olof Lindgren said on Tuesday.

Addressing reporters after a luncheon meet hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) -Southern Region, Mr. Lindgren said the one thing that he emphasises at meetings with the Indian business class, politicians, and bureaucrats, is that although Sweden and India are different in many aspects, there is great potential for both countries to do more together for mutual benefit.

The disconnect between the potential and the actual is reflected in the fact that though bilateral trade ties go back by over a century, Swedish exports to India constitute barely 1 per cent of its international trade. This fact was put up in starker relief when Sweden managed to tide over the global financial crisis, only to be caught up in a secondary crisis as low demand across Europe choked its export mainstay.

“We realise that our export composition is far from ideal,” Mr. Lindgren said.

Since the recession, Sweden has been able to bounce back, and last year the economy registered a 5.5 per cent growth average, which, “in the European context, is quite remarkable.”

Sweden is keen to build on its investment legacy in India, especially in the South. At present, India is Sweden's third largest trading partner after China and Japan in Asia, while Sweden is the 12th largest FDI investor in India.

“If we can find ways of stimulating Swedish companies to look at south India as a trade and investment destination, I'm all for it,” he said.

The Ambassador said the annual surveys that the Swedish Embassy and Trade Council undertakes among its business community in India — about 140 units across varied verticals — have thrown up complaints about red tapism, customs procedures, corruption and infrastructure. “However, the bottom line is that they are happy with their presence here and the profits they make,” Mr. Lindgren said.

Mr. Lindgren, who had met Chief Secretary Debendranath Sarangi, said the opportunities discussed included development and operation of ports, waste-biomass-energy conversion projects and transmission networks for power lines.

One of the proposals is for a tie-up in vocational training in aeronautics mooted by the Overseas Manpower Corporation. “We're scouting for a foreign knowledge and intellectual property partner for running vocational courses,” Corporation managing director Santhosh Mishra said.

The Ambassador responded that vocational training was an issue recently discussed at the Joint Commission meeting between India and Sweden Industries Ministers. “We need to find a model on vocational training. We are working on this subject,” the Ambassador said.

Though Sweden missed out on a defence contract with India this year, the Ambassador was optimistic that the Indian Air Force would have a relook at its single-engine powered Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for its light-weight virtues and operational efficiency.

Arun Vasu, honorary consul, Consulate of Sweden, Chennai, said that along with larger companies, a number of small and medium Swedish companies were also setting up operations in India, especially in the South.

T.T. Ashok, the chairman CII Southern Region, said that the CII would act as a facilitator for Indian and Swedish industries, and the Swedish government agencies to promote investments in India, especially in the South.

More In: National | News | Business | Economy