'Brazil and India can change world trade'

Monday, 26 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Describing Brazil and India as "strategic partners", visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Sunday that the two countries could together change the "trade geography" of the world.

The grey-bearded leftist leader told reporters through an interpreter after President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam ceremonially welcomed him that, for him, the visit to India, the "great land of Mahatma Gandhi," was "accomplishment of a dream."

His first official engagement after the welcome ceremony was a visit to Rajghat, the memorial to Gandhi on the banks of the Yamuna river.

Kalam, with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and senior ministers by his side, received the visiting dignitary in the red-graveled forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, with a ceremonial honour guard on a chilly but clear morning.

Lula will be the chief guest at India's colourful Republic Day parade here on Monday - New Delhi's gesture towards those it considers as special friends.

"The spirit that guided the people during the independence movement is the same spirit that is guiding the political and social growth now," said Lula, who arrived here hours before on a four-day visit to India.

Describing Brazil and India as "strategic partners" he referred to the many similarities between the two countries and said there was lot of potential for economic cooperation.

Though Lula's is a bilateral visit, it has a multilateral dimension. And one of the highlights of the visit was to be the signing of a landmark preferential trade agreement (PTA) between India and South American countries.

Besides a high-level delegation of ministers, provincial governors, senators and businessmen, the Brazilian leader was accompanied by representatives of fellow countries of MERCOSUR, the South American regional economic grouping, to sign the agreement.

They were former Argentine president Eduardo Duhaldo, who is now president of the Commission of Permanent Representatives of MERCOSUR, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Leila Rachid and Gustavo Vanerio, director general of integration, in the Uruguayan foreign ministry.

The signing of the trade pact was seen as a reflection of India's growing importance in the South American countries and its rapidly increasing economic and trade ties with the region.

The PTA pact as well as the signing of six bilateral cooperation agreements was to take place after delegation-level talks between Lula and Vajpayee.

The bilateral agreements were on allowing family members of each other's diplomats to seek gainful employment, exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and official passports, cultural exchange programme and a programme of cooperation between the Indian Space Research organization and the Brazilian Space Agency.

India, Brazil and South Africa launched a tri-continental "India-Brazil South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum," popularly known as G-3, following a meeting of their foreign ministers in Brasilia in June last year.

The G-3 group, supported by developing countries, was largely responsible in thwarting a concerted move by developed countries to push through a lop-sided trade agreement at the WTO Ministerial round in Cancun, Mexico, in September.

President Lula was also to hold talks with External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Commerce and Industry Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister George Fernandes.

He will attend a business luncheon meeting jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on Tuesday and visit Agra and Mumbai on Wednesday before returning home.

Source: IANS
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