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Bid to cement Africa ties

The India-Africa trade ministers' meeting to be held tomorrow is expected to set the target of doubling bilateral trade to around $145 billion by 2022 as part of New Delhi's plan to catch up with China's trade with the continent.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 23.10.15
  •  

New Delhi, Oct. 22: The India-Africa trade ministers' meeting to be held tomorrow is expected to set the target of doubling bilateral trade to around $145 billion by 2022 as part of New Delhi's plan to catch up with China's trade with the continent.

The meeting, which is the run-up to the India-Africa Summit scheduled to start from October 26, will discuss ways to bolster trade ties and fast-track regional agreements.

Trade ministers, representatives and 400 businessmen from 53 African nations will converge in New Delhi to participate in the meeting.

"The meeting of the trade ministers presents an opportunity for exploring different avenues for future engagement as Africa is seen as the continent of the future. This meeting is an important stepping stone for deepening economies ties," Biswajit Dhar, professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, said.

India's trade with Africa stands at around $75 billion and it has granted around $7.4 billion for various developmental and capacity building projects in the past four years. The country has implemented 137 projects in 41 African countries during the period.

However, Africa's trade with China grew more than 10-fold to $198.6 billion in 2012 from $18.5 billion in 2003 and is expected to rise to $385 billion by 2015, according to projections by Standard Chartered Research.

Africa primarily exports oil, iron ore and metals to China besides a small amount of food and agricultural products. China exports machinery, transportation and communication equipment and electronics.

Analysts said India's success in the continent would depend on bringing about industrialisation, creating employment opportunity for the local community and ensuring a better standard of life for them.

During the trade ministers' meeting, India will try to break the deadlock over the conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTAs) with various African states.

A senior commerce ministry official said a lot of effort had been made to fast-track the conclusion of the FTAs that have been stuck since 2005. Any progress towards finalising the FTAs will prove to be a ground-breaking achievement.

Since 2005, India has held several rounds of negotiations with various groupings of African nations, including the South African Customs Union (Sacu), Economic Community of Western African States and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, to conclude the trade pacts.

India wants a reduction in tariffs for 50 per cent of items exported to the Sacu region, which in turn has agreed on a tarriff cut for only 10 per cent of the items. Officials said India would be willing to compromise on its demands for the sake of the successful conclusion of the pact.

A study by Assocham-TARI (Thought Arbitrage Research Institute) said the framework of future unity between India and Africa was dependent on the three pillars of partnership - food security, energy security and mutual developmental prosperity that requires co-operation along with trade agreements at bilateral and multi-lateral levels.