Ties with Latin America to deepen further

Written by HumaSiddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 31 2013, 15:43pm hrs
Salman KhurshidExternal affairs minister Salman Khurshid will be leaving for a 10-day visit to Argentina, Colombia and Chile. (PTI)
Like Look East Policy of the Indian Government, Focus on Latin America has been the recent emerging policy and will get further boost when external affairs minister Salman Khurshid leaves on a ten-day visit to that region.

Khurshid, who returns Thursday after a four-day visit to Germany and Belgium, will leave on Friday for Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

India and Chile are close to formalizing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), an arrangement equivalent to a free trade agreement, which would help reduce or eliminate duties on maximum number of products they trade in.

Chile is also considered to be the gateway to Latin America in the areas of investment and trade opportunities.

With the bilateral trade at $2.6 billion in 2011-12, India has been pushing for a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Chile and has asked that country to further liberalise its visa regime to help the movement of professionals and businessmen.

Chile's main export to India is copper, and with the inking of the new trade agreement the product is expected to reach India with zero tariffs. Chile also exports paper pulp among other things to India.

The two countries are seeking cooperation in areas like information technology, oceanography, science and technology, agriculture and food processing and engineering and infrastructure.

India and Colombia have a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) which came into effect in June 2012.

India has also urged Colombia to expedite ratification of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) to boost investor confidence.

Earlier this month, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), has discovered oil on an on land block, CPO-5, in Colombia. OVL holds 70 per cent participating interest in the block located at the Ilanos basin of Colombia.

The project was under phase-1 of exploration, with a commitment of drilling two exploratory wells.

Argentina, a leading agricultural economy, has invited farmers from India to purchase land there and cultivate it. India is also a major importer of Argentine soybean oil, importing $1.8 billion in 2010.

Indian companies have a major presence in Latin American countries. Indian IT companies in Chile include TCS. While in Argentina, there are over 15 Indian companies, with many being in the IT and IT-enabled services sector, employing thousands of people.

The others are in various manufacturing areas, from pharma to cosmetics to agro chemicals. India-Latin American trade stood at $20 billion in 2010, way below the $140 billion trade between China-Latin American.