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Going to Delhi to catch Tokyo

Calcutta, Dec. 10: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee kicked off a mission during his meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions in Delhi on September 29. Another team from the state is now heading north to woo foreign capital.

This time, the mission is specific. The focus of the December 15 meeting in Delhi will be Japan. The B-team from Bengal, to be led by industries and commerce minister Nirupam Sen, will set its sights on foreign direct investment from Japanese corporates and grants from government agencies.

Organised jointly by the city-based Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the meeting will the “first such focused meet”. The government representatives will meet the heads of around 15 to 20 Japanese companies. Besides Sen, the team will comprise West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation chairman Somnath Chatterjee and industries and commerce secretary Sabyasachi Sen.

“The September meeting was more general in nature. But it evoked significant interest and the Japanese companies wanted to discuss specific issues with the state government and that triggered this exclusive meeting,” said Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general, ICC. Vikram Thapar, the president of the chamber, and senior industrialist S.K. Bajoria will also attend the meeting.

Arif said Japanese companies got in touch with the government and the chamber to know more about labour affairs, condition of infrastructure, especially electricity, and the kinds of incentives available for foreign investments in the state. Sen and his team will address these issues at the closed-door meeting on Monday. The industries and commerce secretary will also make a presentation to the heads of Japanese companies.

“The exposure of Japanese companies in Bengal in terms of investment is an indication of their interest in the state. The meeting is being organised in Delhi to address all of them together,” said Chatterjee.

Bengal tops the list of states in terms of attracting investment from Japan. Mitsubishi Corporation’s investment of $450 million is the single largest foreign direct investment in the state. Besides, government agencies like Japanese Bank for International Co-operation and Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) have pledged assistance worth $195 million for roads.

Chatterjee said the government would invite Japanese companies to explore opportunities in new areas like automobile components, electronic goods, toys and gems and jewellery, besides chemicals and plastics.

Focusing on foreign direct investment will be critical for the state’s industrial growth, said an industry observer. “Bengal ranked second in terms of actual domestic investment last year. But the performance in foreign investment was pathetic with the state ranking ninth with an inflow of Rs 132 crore in comparison to Maharashtra’s Rs 4,865 crore,” he added. Banking on Japan is a good strategy with the Japanese companies bullish on the state, said another industry watcher.

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