Wine-making nations lobby India for lower duties

Kolkata, Jan 27 | Updated: Jan 28 2005, 05:30am hrs
The envoys of around a dozen wine-making countries will soon petition the Indian government to lower tariff barriers, the French ambassador to India, Dominique Girard, said here Thursday.

Mr Girard, responding to a request from an Indian manufacturer of wine, said he has become the first to sign a petition that would soon be sent to Union commerce minister Kamal Nath.

I was the first to sign the letter, two days ago, and a dozen ambassadors will put their signatures soon, he said.

The manufacturer had said that a bottle of French wine that would cost Rs 50 c.i.f. in India ends up with a price tag of Rs 650 at the retail outlet because of various duties.

Noting the increase in trade between India and France, Mr Girard said the increasing presence of French luxury brands in India are an important indication of what the economy is becoming. The middle class is growing and its purchasing power increasing, he noted.

Mr Girard said he is anxious to see a relaxation of rules in the retail sector so that French companies can come to India. The ambassador was addressing members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce here.

During 2003-04, Indian exports to France added up to Rs 7,500 crore, an increase of 10% on the previous years figure. Imports from France were up 30%, but added up to a smaller figure of Rs 5,000 crore.

Trade with France is generating a surplus for India, the ambassador noted.

Mr Girard also welcomed Indias proposed shift to a regime of value-added tax. VAT will play a big role, he said, as it means clarity, more transparency and fewer problems for investors.

He said French companies are keen to enter Indias food processing and water management sectors. At the same, time Indian companies like Wipro and Jindal have made big investments in France.