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India-China join hands to rule global trade

Manoj Joshi

Tuesday 1 July 2003, by JOSHI*Manoj

Article paru dans le "Times of India", ?dition du 1er juillet 2003.

NEW DELHI: India Inc took advantage of the Prime Minister’s visit to hardsell itself to China.

All three chambers of industry, CII, FICCI and Assocham, put their best foot forward and came together in a major Information Technology event at Pudong, Shanghai’s happening place. The Prime Minister himself put in a word pointing to the complementalities between the two countries, one strong in hardware, the other in software.

Both Prime Minister Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao assured each other that they would ensure each others investors and businessmen equal terms. But, say businessmen, this is easier said than done. Chinese companies have not had an easy ride in India and Indian firms sometime complain of discrimination.

Tariff and non-tariff barriers such as restrictions on agricultural produce on phytosanitary grounds are easy to erect as are cases against dumping. This is where the government steps in and ensures, as was done in the recent visit in the case of mangoes, that a regulations regime is in place to make export a possibility. The two governments have also eased the visa regime for easier travel for businessmen. A lot more needs to be done, but it will undoubtedly be calibrated to the state of political relations.

The pragmatic Chinese have not hesitated to import iron ore and steel from India to fulfill their voracious demand. They have been quick to realize India’s comparative advantage in software and welcomed Indian companies like TCS and computer training giant NIIT with open arms. The same has been the case with the pharmaceutical industry. But the Chinese have also sought simultaneously build up their own software industry in a competitive mode.

But now Indian businessmen who accompanied the PM are convinced that there is a change in the Chinese attitude and space has emerged to build synergistic relations in a variety of areas. The sheer pace of Chinese economic growth is so great that the Chinese cannot fulfill their consumption needs, whether it be steel or software from domestic sources. But to build sustainable long-term relations, there is need for a complete political normalisation, not in the near future, but now.

For hard-headed businessmen, in both countries to begin thinking in ’China-India’ terms, rather than as ’China’ and ’India’ the political leadership has to do their bit. The two countries cannot let their border problem remain in the backburner too long. Vajpayee’s visit and the agreements reached have generated a certain momentum and also created a positive climate of opinion which should be used to press for a quick resolution of the issue and it should not be postponed on the pretext of impending elections or some such excuse.

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