“The landmark achievement of Latin America and Caribbean countries (LAC) in alleviating poverty from 47% to 25% between 2000 and 2014 holds great lesson for India. Government of Maharashtra is implementing livelihood mission to address the issue of poverty in the state. Maharashtra is keen to learn the technologies and methologies of the LAC countries in alleviating poverty,” said Chief Guest Shri. Deepak Kesarkar, Hon’ble Minister of State, Home (Rural), Finance and Planning, Government of Maharashtra while delivering keynote address at the India-Latin America & Caribbean Partnership Conclave on Trade and Investment. The event was jointly organised by World Trade Center Mumbai, All India Association of Industries and GRULAC-India at WTC Mumbai on June 15, 2017.

The Minister assured that he would facilitate air connectivity with LAC countries very soon to improve bilateral business exchange and enhance people-to-people contact.

Shri. Kesarkar invited companies and investors from Latin America to explore trade and investment opportunities in the state. “Our Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri. Devendra Fadnavis, who is dynamic, has focused on improving ease of doing business in Maharashtra. Companies from LAC can explore investment opportunities in Maharashtra in sectors such as smart cities, renewable energy, food processing, pharmaceuticals, skill development and so on,” the minister added.

Mr. Ankan Banerjee, Director (LAC), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India said,” India’s relationship with Latin America is based on shared values and long term partnership. Government of India has made constant efforts to strengthen engagement with Latin American countries in the last 2-3 years. In the coming years, we will open embassies in at least four Latin American countries. Presently, India is not a major trade and investment partner of Latin America; However, going forward there is tremendous potential to strengthen co-operation in agriculture, food processing, energy, pharmaceuticals, among others. India is also strengthening its cultural co-operation with LAC in segments such as joint film production, sports, yoga, traditional system of medicines and so on. Government of India is expediting the process of finalizing its preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Peru.”

Mr. K.V. Nagi Reddy, Director – Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India remarked, ” There is abundant opportunity to explore new markets and new horizons in Latin America. The industry bodies and chambers of commerce must take advantage of the vibrant condition and the existing trade agreements to promote bilateral trade and investment. India is working with Mercosur countries to expand the scope of the existing preferential trade agreements (PTA) to include 90% of tariff lines, from the present 65-70%. I urge the Indian industry to take advantage of the zero duty benefit with Chile on more than 500 tariff lines. Indian companies can explore business opportunities in CARICOM countries in sectors such as low cost housing, agriculture and renewable energy. India is also exploring trade agreement with Ecuador. The Central American Integration System (CISA) has signed a free trade agreement with North America. Therefore, India can consider countries in the CISA as gateway to its entry into the North American countries.”

H.E. Ms. Monica Lanzetta, Ambassador, Embassy of Colombia said,”I am happy to note that this maiden conclave in Maharashtra has received overwhelming response from 18 LAC countries. This event is a timely opportunity to make significant move in diversifying our trade basket and promoting sustainable investment between India and LAC. LAC countries have received investment worth USD 12 billion from around 100 Indian companies in recent years. However, India-LAC relationship is still nascent. In a significant move to strengthen bilateral co-operation, India and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) decided to set up a Permanent Mechanism of Political Dialogue and Cooperation in September 2016. This mechanism aims to strengthen trade and investment, co-operate in science and technology, culture, education and climate change, to name a few.”

Earlier in his welcome remarks, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries and Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai said, ”This is the first-ever initiative in Maharashtra and we are planning to make it an annual event. India’s bilateral trade with LAC countries currently stands at USD 46 billion and it has the potential to reach USD 100 billion in the next five years. In order to realize this goal, Ministry of External Affairs is working on strengthening air connectivity and maritime transport between India and LAC. Government must address all the hindrances and irritants in bilateral economic ties through measures such as signing free trade agreement and introducing single visa for all the LAC countries. Companies in Maharashtra must invest in LAC countries in areas such as agri-commodities, pharmaceuticals, automobile & engineering, information technology and so on.”

Mr. Kalantri further informed that WTC Mumbai is planning to set up a dedicated desk to promote trade and investment between India and LACs. In future, WTC Mumbai and AIAI are also planning to host similar event to promote bilateral relationship with Africa in September 2017, Mr. Kalantri added.

As part of the event, senior diplomatic officials of LAC countries in India shared insightful presentations on their regional trading blocs. H.E. Mr. Mentor Villagomez, Ambassador, Embassy of Ecuador in India made presentation on Comunidad Andina. H.E. Mr. David Pollard, High Commissioner, High Commission of Guyana in India on CARICOM, Mr. Alejandra Zothner Meyer, Consul General of Argentina on MERCOSUR, H.E. Mr. Andres Barbe, Ambassador, Embassy of Chile in India on Pacific Alliance, and H.E. Ms. Mariela Cruz, Ambassador, Embassy of Costa Rica in India on SICA (Central American Integration System).

The event was well attended by more than 250 participants, including business delegates, government officials, representatives of industry bodies and chambers of commerce from various sectors. WTC Mumbai and AIAI together organized more than 500 pre-determined Business to Business Meetings during the Conclave. Capt. Somesh Batra, Vice Chairman, WTC Mumbai, proposed vote of thanks for this event.

Photo Caption: H.E. Ms. Monica Lanzetta, Ambassador, Embassy of Colombia presenting memento to Mr. Deepak Kesarkar, Hon’ble Minister of State, Home (Rural), Finance and Planning, Government of Maharashtra at the India-Latin America & Caribbean Partnership Conclave on Trade and Investment on June 15, 2017 at WTC Mumbai. Also seen in the photograph are (on the left) Mr. Vijay G. Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries (AIAI) and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai and (on the right) Capt. Somesh C. Batra Vice Chairman, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai