Increase two-way trade 30 percent annually: Putin

Friday, 26 January 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin called for increasing two-way trade with India at a blistering 30 percent a year to meet the $10 billion target set for 2010.

"There is good basis for enhancing our trade. In 2006, the volume was very minor at $3.8 billion. The pace of growth must be 30 percent a year if we are to achieve the target of $10 billion set for 2010," he said while addressing top Indian CEOs here.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) jointly organised the event.

Russia, however, was not forthcoming in responding to demands that the visa regime for Indian businessmen be relaxed to improve economic relations between the two countries. India Inc. says that but for Russia's restrictive visa regime, trade could have increased manifold. Moscow counters that Indians misuse Russian visas to slip into third countries.

Noting that high transportation costs were impeding trade growth, Putin said this could be "considerably reduced" if a proposed North-South Corridor became operational.

The bulk of India-Russia trade is currently shipped from ports in Ukraine via the Black Sea or via European ports, adding to costs. An industry study suggests a North-South Corridor would provide the shortest link between the two countries through Iran and the Caspian Sea, reducing costs by one-third.

Calling for "further diversification" of India-Russia economic links, Putin said there were "good prospects" in areas like exploration, production and supply of oil.

"Our countries have unique and rich capabilities. We have to exploit this," he added.

Speaking on the occasion, FICCI chairman Habib Khorakiwala presented a four-point wish list to increase India-Russia trade.

The first two related to visas and the North-South Corridor. He also urged expansion of the inter-banking network between the two countries to reduce the time taken to transfer funds between the two countries.

Khorakiwala also suggested that the money remaining in the Rupee-Rouble Debt Agreement of the 1970s be utilized as initial capital for Russian companies to invest in India.

"Once this starts, it will create its own dynamics and more and more funds will start flowing in," he maintained.
Source: IANS
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