Commerce Ministers to hold talks ahead of Xi Jinping's visit to India

Written by PTI | Beijing | Updated: Sep 1 2014, 00:39am hrs
Nirmala SitharamanNirmala Sitaraman is due to take part in the India-China Joint Economic Working-group with her Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng. (PTI)
Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's forthcoming visit to India, Commerce Ministers of both the countries are set to hold talks to finalise multi-billion dollar package of Chinese investments in India.

Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman is due to arrive here tomorrow to take part in the India, China Joint Economic Working-group (JEG) headed jointly along with her Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng.

The two ministers would meet on September 2 to discuss a broad trade agenda which includes China's plans to address India's concerns of mounting trade deficit which is currently averaging around USD 35 billion per annum.

India's trade deficit with China mounted to USD 8.84 billion in the first three months of this year out of total trade volume of USD 21.98 billion.

The bilateral trade amounted to USD 65.47 billion in 2013 with trade deficit totalling USD 31.42 billion.

This is Sitaraman's second visit to China after she took over as Commerce Minister.

She held talks with Gao when she came with Vice President, Hamid Ansari in June this year.

The Commerce Ministers talks would focus on the broad package of Chinese investments that were expected to be announced during Xi's visit New Delhi expected to be in the third week of September, officials here told PTI.

High on the agenda of investments are the Chinese industrial parks in India, which was expected to be announced by Xi during his visit.

A Chinese delegation is currently in India visiting three different locations, including New Delhi, Gujarat and Maharastra.

The two sides have already signed an MOU outlining a broad frame work for the parks. India wants China to set up four such parks, while China wants to make a beginning with one.

Discussions were expected to be focussed on the products China wants to manufacture in the Parks while Chinese officials maintained the quantum of the investment would be announced by Xi during his visit.

Considering the rapport established between Xi and Modi during their meeting in Brazil on the sidelines of the recent BRICS meeting, the extent of Chinese investments would be discussed during their meeting in New Delhi.

Yet another area of discussions would be China's involvement in India's plans to modernise its railways.

China is keen to construct the high speed rail network on build, operate and maintenance basis while India currently prefers China to modernise the existing tracks to improve the speed as well as modernising the railway stations.

Chinese officials are keenly watching Modi's current visit to Japan where he is due to discuss Japanese interest to build and operate the bullet trains in India.

Officials say that considering the interest of both China and Japan, India could consider allotting different corridors for such a railway network if there is a broad agreement.

Besides this the two Commerce Ministers were expected to review bilateral trade which is on the decline and measures needed to meet the USD 100 billion target by next year.

Besides investments, India has been asking China to open its markets to Indian IT and pharmaceuticals besides agricultural products.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has a telephonic conversation with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi a few days ago and they discussed preparations for Chinese President Xi's visit to New Delhi.