India and China agree to study regional trade agreement

STRENGTHENING TIES: Bo Xilai (left), Chinese Minister for Commerce, and Kamal Nath (centre), Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, along with Phiroz Vandrevala, Member, CII National Council, at the China-India Business Forum meet organised by CII in New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Special Correspondent

Bilateral trade to touch $50 b by 2010; investment protection pact proposed

NEW DELHI: India and China on Thursday agreed to examine the possibility of inking a regional trade agreement along with an investment protection pact, apart from deciding to put in place a CEOs Forum to facilitate in-depth exchanges between the two countries at the business level.

As a part of their mutual efforts to strengthen economic ties and enhance bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2010, the two Asian giants decided to set up six task forces related to WTO (World Trade Organization), harmonisation of standards, Rules of Origin, non-tariff barriers, agriculture and reconciliation of trade at the seventh meeting of the India-China Joint Economic Group here.

'This was a significant meeting as it was being held after a gap of six years. The discussions were multifaceted and covered a lot of issues,'' said Commerce Minister Kamal Nath later at a meeting of the China-India Business Forum.

Trade between India and China, Mr. Nath said, was growing at the rate of 30-40 per cent and was poised to increase from $15 billion at present to $20 billion by 2007, a year ahead of the 2008 target. This, he said, would propel China into the position of India's largest trading partner, overtaking the U.S.

A more confident Chinese Commerce Minister, Bo Xilai, however, noted that the $ 20-billion two-way trade target would be achieved in 2006 itself and hoped that it would significantly surge further in the next few years to touch $ 50 billion by 2010.

Mr. Nath said that while the two countries agreed to set up a group to look into the broad contours of a regional trade pact, a CEOs Forum would be formed within the next three months to facilitate business relationships.

On his part, Mr. Bo revealed that India and China had also reached a 'consensus on a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement and have already initialled the draft' pact.

Cross-border trade, including that through Nathula Pass in Sikkim, also figured in the discussions at the JEG meeting, Mr. Nath said.

The other issues that came up for discussion included trade in coking coal, iron ore and steel as also farm products such as garlic and grapes, he said.

PTI reports from Beijing

Charges India with creating obstacles

China on Thursday charged India with raising a series of 'obstacles'' in trade, including slapping of over 90 anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods, and not granting the 'market economy' status to the world's third largest trading nation. 'Currently the major problems in Sino-India bilateral economic and trade cooperation are India's frequent investigations on our products exported to India,'' Spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Chong Quan, said.