India, Philippines sign 9 bilateral deals

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | Updated: Oct 6 2007, 02:16am hrs
The Philippines signed nine bilateral agreements with India on Friday, including a framework agreement for bilateral trade.

Addressing a joint meeting hosted by the apex industry bodies Assocham, CII and FICCI the Philippines President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo disclosed, the series of agreement signed with India includes those on defence, health and medicine, energy security, agriculture, tourism, culture. It is proposed that both the countries would jointly combat global terrorism and take up joint exercise in non-combat areas.

Bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries in 2006 was valued at $ 520.31 million, out of which Indias was $ 400.85 million while its imports from the Philippines was only $ 119.46 million. Indias major exports consisted of cheap life saving drugs, meat and bovine animals, wheat products, finished products of iron or non-alloy steel and wheat used as feed. Indias imports from the Philippines consisted of parts of electronic integrated circuits and micro assemblies, phosphoric acid, newsprint in rolls and sheets, portable digital automatic machines and cellular phones.

Stressing the need to bridge the gap in trade balance which was weighed heavily in favour of India, Macapagal-Arroyo suggested that India import fashion garments and consumer products from the Philippines. She said that whenever a comprehensive agreement is signed, India needed to take care of Philippines trade concerns in view of its size and GDP growth which is much lower as compared to India.

She also disclosed that the Indian government has agreed to extend $ 50 million credit line to the Philippines through the Exim Bank to support its trade and industry particularly in the area of health and medicines.

Macapagal-Arroyo along with a 47-member delegation of businessmen and officials is on a 4-day visit to India beginning from October 3, after a two-day visit to China.

The two countries have also agreed to set up a joint monitoring group, which will closely keep a watch on the implementation aspects of agreements signed here so that further areas of joint cooperation are identified to push and integrate the trade and economic ties between India and the Philippines.

Elaborating on pharmaceuticals cooperation, the Philippines President said that Indian industry should open up manufacturing units in her country for providing low cost medicines for its population and also export to other countries. She disclosed that the State Trading Corporation of India has signed an accord with the Philippines International Trading Corporation to export $ 35 million affordable medicines to the Philippines. Two Indian pharma companies have also signed an agreement with their counterparts in the Philippines.

Macapagal-Arroyo also urged the Indian industry to invest in power transmission projects in the Philippines. She expressed her willingness to replicate Indian experience of producing bio-fuel from Jatropha and ethanol from sweet sorghum

She also suggested that India attract investments from Philippines construction industry. Urging India industry to step up investments in the Philippines, she said ;I am glad to hear that Mittals have joined the billion dollar club and have agreed to invest $ 1.6 billion in south Philippines.

The Philippines President also invited the Indian industry to invest in dairy sector and meat processing. She said that an agreement has been reached with India to supply live buffalo and genetic material for buffalo breeding. She also invited the Indian film industry to take advantage of the scenic beauty of her country. She said that her country has already relaxed visa norms for Indians.

Speaking on the occasion, Indian minister of state for defence, MM Pallam Raju emphasised the need for promoting trade and cultural ties with the Philippines as according to him the country has strategic importance for India in the entire ASEAN region.

He sought joint venture cooperation between the two countries so that their age old ties are cemented and India and the Philippines emerge as leading trade partner in the ASEAN region.

In his address, the ASSOCHAM President, Venugopal N Dhoot said that the Philippines provided for huge opportunities in the areas of film and BPO and ad film making and therefore a special task force should be formed so that cooperation in this specialised field could be enhanced under mutual beneficiary conditions.

Past president of CII, Subodh Bhargava sought building of special relationships between India and the Philippines in the area of pharmaceuticals, arguing that India has an edge over it and Philippines requires Indias help. Therefore, emphasis should be laid on this area to exploit its potential to the maximum.

Vikas Jalan, Chairman, India Philippines JBC of FICCI in his address said that the Philippines was Indias third largest trade partner in the ASEAN region and since its economy is fully market oriented and India too has liberalised, the two nations should work closely for economic and trade ties.