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Mike Connor for removing roadblocks to foreign direct investment

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ALL SMILES: British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Connor with Centre for Security Analysis president V.R. Raghavan (centre) and Ashok Leyland Managing Director R. Sheshasayee before delivering a lecture on opportunities for economic partnership between India and the UK, in Chennai on Saturday.
ALL SMILES: British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Connor with Centre for Security Analysis president V.R. Raghavan (centre) and Ashok Leyland Managing Director R. Sheshasayee before delivering a lecture on opportunities for economic partnership between India and the UK, in Chennai on Saturday.

Special Correspondent

Says in return UK is open to investments from Indian companies

CHENNAI: The scale, breadth and diversity of Indo-British relationship makes it unique, according to Mike Connor, British Deputy High Commissioner in Southern India. “But we cannot afford to be complacent. We could do better,” he said.

Mr. Connor was speaking on opportunities for economic partnership between India and the UK as part of the series of Ambassador’s talks organised by the Centre for Security Analysis at the GRT convention centre. Before his appointment in August 2005, he was closely involved in the conceptualisation and design of the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO). His call for greater liberalisation was clear. “Yes, the process needs managing, but there can be no going back,” he said. India and Britain, he believes, are ideal partners.

The two countries share a vibrant secular democratic tradition, business culture, legal, banking and financial structures, even passions for curry and cricket.

“The trade and investment partnership is strong,” Mr. Connor said adding that the UK was the third largest investor in India over the last 15 years.

His advice today to UK companies is that they have to be in India if they are serious about trade and investment. However, Mr. Connor said there were many roadblocks to FDI in market sectors which the UK considered its strength. In financial services, he pointed to the limits on shareholdings for foreign joint venture partners, ceilings on foreign shareholding in banks and the prevention of Lloyd’s of London from operating in the insurance sector.

In legal services, he called for India to allow law firms to practice, and in retail he urged India to remove caps so that UK companies could invest in logistics and agriculture.

To facilitate investments in infrastructure, he commended the work of IFSL and Partnerships UK who offered public private partnership (PPP) training for government officials and the private sector. In return, Mr. Connor said, the UK was open to investment from Indian companies. Fifty per cent of all Indian investment in the EU is into the UK. Apart from Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and others, many mid-cap companies have used the UK as a platform for their international expansion plans.

He stressed the need for wide and long standing partnerships between research and development communities in the two countries, and highlighted the quality of the UK’s scientific and technological skills base in cutting edge technology – from inventing HTML, cell phones, GPRS, and fibre optics to the iPod.

He also announced that the UK had committed nearly £25 million over five years to strengthening research links through its Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Last year South India accounted for the largest proportion of the awards given under this programme.

The bilateral trade between India and the UK is worth over £8 billion and rising. “The mix of ambition and opportunity is a win–win situation for both India and the UK,” Mr Connor said.

“We need to train ourselves to look beyond our comfort zones, look at newer areas of partnership and collaboration”. R. Sheshasayee, Managing Director of Ashok Leyland, said India needed to address trade policy frameworks in order to be convinced whether the country was not giving away opportunities out of fear of lack of ability to compete.

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