The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Comrade Buddha, let’s talk market
- Chief minister and Chinese come together: it’s strictly commerce

Calcutta, Aug. 6: Move over Marx, it’s time to talk markets.

When two communist leaders — Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Yunnan vice-governor Shao Kiwei — met representatives of Indian industry today, they chose to do some aggressive marketing and pursue fixed targets.

One batted for Bengal and the other hardsold Yunnan, one of the fastest growing provinces in China.

“We sincerely invite people of the Indian business community to visit Yunnan and conduct exchanges, discuss trade, investment and cooperation with us. We will provide help and support in various ways,” Shao, the leader of the 76-member Chinese delegation, said at the business conclave organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Bhattacharjee’s sales pitch was equally loud. “… the state, run by the Left Front government under the leadership of Communist Party of India (Marxist), has adopted the path of progressive economic reform and development,” he said.

Bengal’s business team, led by industries and commerce minister Nirupam Sen, made an audio-visual presentation — with Chinese voiceover — to showcase Bengal’s strengths and highlight the government’s achievements.

“Look at the customer focus of the West Bengal government,” pointed out CII president Sunil Kant Munjal.

Wang Jinzhen, assistant chairman, China Council for Promotion of International Trade, presented China’s achievements — including a growth rate touching 12 per cent — in recent years. He talked of the rise of private enterprise and phasing out of government regulations.

Bhattacharjee said market principles were followed in Bengal as well. “We have an open industrial policy in the state and there are no restrictions on foreign investment. You can come here and set up your units and we will extend all cooperation.”

He then rolled out his wish list: technical collaboration in iron and steel, joint initiatives for design and production of engineering items and partnership to produce low-cost high-value electronic goods.

Both sides stressed cooperation and mutual benefits as well as the importance of K2K (Kunming to Kolkata) air-link to further trade ties. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the CII and the Chinese trade council.

“We are forming a working group to study growth and development of economic links between our state and the Yunnan province. I have also received an invitation to visit China around December,” Bhattacharjee said after a closed-door meeting with Shao on the conclave sidelines.

“There are a number of similarities between Yunnan and Bengal and we want to foster two-way economic collaboration. Both Indian and Chinese markets have opened up in recent years and I think markets will open up further in future and both countries will benefit,” Shao said.

He allayed fears that China was interested only in selling its products. “One-way trade is against the principles of markets and we want mutual benefits. Besides, we also do import from India and there is a trade surplus in favour of India.”

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