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Posco push from S Korea minister
- Stress on need to take quick decision on project

New Delhi, Jan. 20: South Korea is lobbying hard so that its showpiece investment in India — Posco’s $12 billion steel plant in Orissa — is cleared at the earliest.

South Korean trade minister Kim Jong-Hoon, who met his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma here today, stressed the need to take quick decisions on the Posco project.

“Don’t disregard the importance of this greenfield investment; it can create a great deal of jobs in India and a great deal of values for Indian industry,” Jong-Hoon told newspersons after his meeting with Sharma. The Posco proposal came up some six years ago and envisaged setting up a three million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant that was to be ratcheted up to a 12 MTPA plant.

“The site where we try to set up the steel mill is not in my mind forest area,” he said.

Though the Prime Minister’s Office has long been pushing for early clearance for this massive investment proposal, opposition from tribals whose land was being acquired and from the environment ministry have stalled the project. The South Korean minister said both countries should work together to find “a good solution to environmental concerns”. The project in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa seeks diversion of 1,253 hectares of forestland. This came under environment ministry’s scanner in August last year for alleged green law violations.

The government has agreed to allow Posco’s plant to be set up at Orissa and to allocate it 600 metric tonne of iron ore reserves, which will be its feeder stock for 30 years. Posco can export some 30 per cent of its high-grade iron ore extraction and replace it with different grade ore while its plants are in operation.

Sharma said India-South Korea trade had boomed since the signing of a comprehensive economic pact, and had increased by 44 per cent in one single year to reach $15 billion. He felt it would be easy to reach the bilateral trade target of $30 billion. “I am confident that as exporters on both sides develop a better understanding of the advantages presented by this agreement through a liberal tariff regime, we should easily be in a position to achieve the trade target of $30 billion by 2014,” said Sharma.

“The services economy will particularly benefit from a liberalised regime on both sides and will form an important building block for augmenting bilateral trade between our two countries. We view the agreement with the Republic of Korea as an economic bridge between South Asia and the larger East Asian economy, paving the way for a larger regional economic integration across Asia,” he said.

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