P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday asked the developed bloc to get real about global trade issues.

He also expressed the Centre’s willingness to play “a facilitating role” to prevent any adverse impact on the investment climate in West Bengal in the current context of a controversy over the Tata Group’s Nano-car project there.

Mr. Kamal Nath, now here to participate in the discussions between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on economic issues, said the two sides “hope” to conclude a trade pact. Some “minor issues” remained to be sorted out, but India and the ASEAN were also hopeful of announcing a start on negotiations for an accord on services and investment as well.

On the Nano-car project in West Bengal, the Minister said: “With globalisation [on] and [plans for] trade agreements in East Asia, we must ensure that India is an attractive investment destination, compared to other East Asian countries. Unfortunately, the issue in Singur is an issue between two political parties. Nothing to do with the Tatas. But Tatas are becoming the victims of this.”

The situation “calls for an immediate process of dialogue, so that West Bengal does not get an image of an investment-unfriendly state, as there is serious need for investment and creation of new employment opportunities in West Bengal.”

Asked who should engage in talks, Mr. Nath said: “The dialogue partners are the two warring [parties]. There should be a dialogue between the State government and Mamata Banerjee and all those who are opposed to the project.

The government of India, he emphasised, “is willing to play any facilitating role in this, so that investment and the generation of employment opportunities are not impacted.”