Swiss find Indian trade barriers stifling

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 25 May 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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BERNE:Switzerland says there are still "far too many obstacles" in entering the Indian market as trade barriers are "very high" and the bureaucracy is "quite heavy".

"It is still not easy to trade with India. Trade barriers are quite high as compared to ASEAN countries," according to Anne-Pascale Krauer Miller, Head of Bilateral Economic Relations (Asia/Oceania) in the Swiss Government.

Talking to a group of visiting Indian journalists, she, however, observed that the investment climate in India had certainly improved over the years and this was amply reflected in the General Budget for 2005-2006.

But India would have to do away with "complicated procedures" and review its protectionist policies to become a more attractive market for the developed world, she added.

Miller noted that economic relations between India and Switzerland were very good. "Both trade and investment figures increased remarkably in 2003 and 2004. Last year, Swiss companies expanded their export to India by 37 percent, and Indian firms expanded theirs by nearly ten percent.'' Switzerland was one of the leading foreign investors in India.

Swiss companies increasingly invested in the expanding Indian industry and services sectors. In the last four years, Swiss direct investments were to the tune of Rs 12.8 billion in contrast to Rs 8.3 billion in the whole of nineties.

Miller said recently Indian knowledge based industries had begun to set up units in Switzerland, to have a good presence in the European market. These included Tata, Infosys and Wipro. "We indeed have a liberal, business friendly legislation, political stability, good infrastructure and highly educated personnel. Switzerland is a preferred location for high-tech companies and as a base for international headquarters," she added.

Miller said considering the dynamism of the Indian economy, there was still room for expanding the ties between the two countries. Swiss bilateral agreements with India provided a good basis for further development of these ties. The agreements included those on avoidance of double taxation, on promotion and protection of investments and on intensification of bilateral cooperation in science and technology.

The main items of Indian exports to Switzerland are textiles and garments, organic chemicals, precious stones and jewelry, dyestuffs, machinery and parts, leather products, shoes and shoe uppers, cotton, plastics, coffee, tea and hand-knotted carpets.

Besides these traditional products, efforts are gradually being made to launch new products in the Swiss market. Recently Tata had introduced some of its automobile lines in Switzerland. The Swiss exports to India consist of machinery and equipment (electrical and mechanical), precision instruments, dyes and chemicals. Over the last few years, India has emerged as an important source for software and its exports to the European nation in this sector are rapidly expanding.

Swiss Government sources said there were hardly any other countries in the whole world that relied on foreign trade to such an extent as Switzerland, both for imports and exports. Since time immemorial, the Swiss trade policy had been based on the principles of a free market. For many years, customs duty on industrial goods had been low and there were hardly any import quotas, with the exception of agricultural products.

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