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Remarks by EAM, Dr. S. Jaishankar at CII India-LAC Business Conclave

Posted on: August 03, 2023 | Back | Print

President CII, Mr. R. Dinesh,

Director General CII, Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee,

Your Excellency, the Vice President,

Excellencies, the distinguished Ministers,

I know 17 of our colleagues from 11 countries are here with us today, and that I think itself is a cause for great congratulation,

Representatives of the business world, those who are taking an interest in the development of India’s cooperation with Latin America,

A very good morning to all of you.

I am truly delighted to be here to address the inaugural session of the 9th CII-LAC Conclave on Furthering Economic Partnerships for Shared & Sustained Growth. I see that the program of this Conclave is very well laid out, that it encompasses all sectors of interest to both India and to LAC countries. And that there are separate sessions focusing on regional groupings such as CARICOM and SICA, which underline the diversity and breadth of our engagement. Parallel investment tracks; reverse buyer seller meets; sector specific sessions; visits to industrial clusters, I think all these together will provide a 360 degree visibility and understanding to the delegations about the promise that India holds today.

2. I am ofcourse particularly pleased to be here with you, because to me meetings such as these are actually proof that foreign policy delivers, that at the end of the day there is business to be done, there are contracts to be concluded, there are numbers by which you can actually measure successes or challenges in foreign policy and this is for me, a very very good occasion to do that in respect of Latin America and the Caribbean. Now, this Conclave takes place in the context of the upgraded engagement between India and the LAC countries in recent years. Over the last 9 years, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at the helm, our ties have actually moved on a new trajectory. Indeed, India’s relationship with the region is being nurtured across the full spectrum of the Indian leadership. The Latin America and Caribbean region has witnessed notable engagements with 34 high-level visits, which include six visits each from the President and the Vice President, and four from the Prime Minister. The most recent ofcourse among them, has been the visit of our President to Suriname, where she was conferred the country’s highest distinction, the "Grand Order of the Chain of the Yellow Star”, and this honour only underlines our historic relationship and the tremendous goodwill between India and the region.

3. In turn, India too has hosted 38 high-level dignitaries and we are having a few more today, with eight of them being Presidents. Furthermore, our commitment to greater contacts is also evident through the establishment of two new embassies in the region, one in the Dominican Republic and the other in Paraguay.

4. Now, as you would have noted, I have been personally, myself making regular visits to the region and I assure you the count would have been greater than what Mr. Banerjeetold you, had it not been for two years of Covid. So, I expect next month to be in Cuba and I still hope very much that during this term, I will have further opportunities. But so far, I have visited Mexico; Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, more recently, Guyana, Panama, Colombia and Dominican Republic. As I said, I look forward to beingin the region again. But I also want to make the point and I say this as much for the Indians in the room, as for our colleagues from the LAC region,that manythese were really first ever visits by an Indian External Affairs Minister and I think, that in itself is a reminder of the need for us really to pay greater attention and to invest really more time and energy in this account. Additionally, we are now covering a lot of ground by actually meeting on the margins of regional and multilateral events. This has allowed us for example, to meet withthe CELAC, with CARICOM, with SICA, and again next month when we have our annual meeting at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, I expect to see many more of our LAC colleagues at that time.

5. During my interactions, I have noted a growing interest and for deeper engagement with India. And its also been very heartwarming to see the goodwill that India holds among the people of the region, and I must say that in my own travels, I had a chance to experience some of that, not just in official functions but even in the manner of speaking on the streets. These contacts have only reinforced the significance of trade and of people-to-people connections, and they serve as a reminder of the shared challenges and opportunities that India and the Latin America and Caribbean region face.

6. Today, we need to reflect on the impressive growth of trade between India and Latin America in recent times. Our bilateral trade has surged close to US$ 50 Billion during the financial year 2022-23, and it is a testament to both the strength and the potential of our economic partnership. It is worth noting, and I give these comparisons really as a reference,it is worth noting, that India's exports to Brazil for example, stands at $10 billion, which is almost twice of actually what weexport to Japan. Similarly, our exports to Mexico is in excess of $5 billion, which is actually more than our exports to Canada. With the Dominican Republic, our exports last year were $329 million, and there are some Asian countries which still haven't come to that level. So I make this comparison to underline the point that these are serious trade accounts, there are going at a very rapid rate, its important that we really sort of step on the accelerator out there. And these numbers are an indication I think, people should understand, that any efforts here, the investments of time and energy will be very very rewarding.

7. Indian companies have played a significant role in this growth, with a strong presence in sectors like agriculture, energy including renewables, information technology, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, automobiles among others in the LAC region. They have made an aggregate investment, and I know investment figures are always a little debatablehere, but I would say its safe today to assert a ballpark figure of about US$ 15 billion as the investment today of Indian companies in this region, and that too is a reflection on the levels of interest that today Indian businesses have in the region.

8. Now when I look at different sectors, I would like to particularly mention agriculture, because this is one area which has seen a significant uptick in recent years. India and LAC are todaythe two largest consumption economies and therefore, food security is really critical to both our populations. Indian sustainable farming techniques do complement LAC’s availability of arable land-mass, thereby ensuring productive, efficient and sustainable agriculture using digitization and water conservation technologies. Indian businesses have also invested in decarbonization technologies in the region. And amongthe notable investments which we have seen our millet farming in Guyana, edible oil production in a number of countries, agro chemical manufacturing sites in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and Mexico and the setting up of agro-R&D centers. This coupled with increased interest in developing improved germplasm and developing cold chain centers actually indicates that our collaboration is moving from strength to strength.

9. Now beyond that, India is today successfully executing projects in the Latin America Caribbean region to develop critical infrastructure, including in power transmission, there have been some notable contracts which were awarded in the last few weeks in this regard; roads, oil and gas and also connectivity, renewable energy, and we are now seeing the beginnings of defense. Our development partnership is another expanding element of our relationship.Government of India has extended so far 35 lines of credit to our partners like Bolivia, Cuba, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Suriname. Close to US$ 900 million have been extended under these Lines and we have already completed 21 of these committed projects. Our development projects, certainly we are proud of this, that they have generated local employment. And these ‘delivered by India projects’, I think today are a testimony of our capabilities,they are impacting lives in the region, and I was very pleased when I was visiting Guyana, that at that time actually we hadthe delivery of an Ocean-going Passenger-cum-Cargo Ferry, which was a delivery which I believe, was done below cost and before time.So I think that is also a statement today of what our industry is capable of.

10. As two rapidly growing economies, it is natural that we should also explore the demand-supply fit between us more aggressively. This is evident as I said, from our rising trade figures but also today fromoil imports that are taking place from Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Guyana. And the fact that we are today importing crude oil and POL (Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant) worth US$ 7 billion from Latin America, this was the figure for the last year, and that we are exporting actually a similar amountin terms of refined products. I think this is something which is definitely worth noting. If we look at the automobile sector, the car exports to Latin America actually today constitute one-third of India’s global car exports, and Mexico is actually the second largest market for Indian cars. Other major markets are Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Guatemala. Motorcycle exports also constitute one-third of India’s global exports, and Colombia here is the number one as a market for our motorcycles, for our two wheelers. But again, I must acknowledge Mexico, Guatemala and Peru as other significant markets.

11. Latin America’s capabilities in producing and supplying raw materials also gives it a very special edge when it comes to trade. The region is a big source of gold, copper and other mineral concentrates, and also for wood. India’s gold import from the region last year stood at, in excess of US$ 6.5 billion, and these were mainly from Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador. Chile was the main supplier of copper, and these too was in excess of a US$ 1 billion, followed by Peru, Panama and Brazil. We have had countries like Uruguay, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Panama and Costa Rica, who have emerged as significant suppliers of wood and wood products.

12. So let me now move on to the field of health. As a country which is asserting its capability as the pharmacy of the world, it’s natural that we would have supplied Covid vaccines to nearly 100 countries and provided medicines to 150 others, and many of them were actually in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. In fact I think, the vaccine supplied to Latin America and Caribbean was roughly about 9 million doses to 21 countries of the region. But more than the supply, for us, it is a matter of great pride that we were the first suppliers of Covid vaccines to many of our LAC partners, even though supplies were available close by. We are now espousing the concept of ‘People’s Pharmacy’- this is Jan Aushadhi- is a concept that we have propagated in India which is to make medicines especially generics available at a very reasonable cost to the low income segments of our population, but even the others benefit from it. So it is a model which we believe that many of you might have an interest in. We have been a consistent exporter of pharma products. Today again, our direct trade with Latin America and Caribbean on this particular set of exports is about a billion and a half. And we are the top supplier of pharmaceuticals to some of your countries.

13. India’s large talent pool is also exploring today the global workplace and its natural that that exploration would bring us to Latin America. We are willing to work with LAC countries to make movement easy between our businesses and between our people. And I have every confidence as we enter an era of knowledge economy, of Artificial Intelligence, that the digital businesses will grow and will actually catalyse our cooperation, taking it to higher levels. And one thought which I put forward for your collective consideration is whether we should be discussing and negotiating mobility agreements, because today legal mobility is increasingly important in a world where we think of a unified workplace. And we have done mobility agreements with a number of countries, we see that as something which is mutually beneficial so I would really urge it as a subject of reflection for this conclave. Now the numbers and the descriptions that I have given, I think are surely a source of optimism that point to a wide spectrum of opportunities that await us. And President Dinesh spoke of a target of a US$ 100 billion. I am a great believer in targets, my Prime Minister is even a greater believer and we have seen that when you actually put a number out there, it becomes a motivator, it somewhere creates a desire to reach a particular goal. So I would really be very much with him in this regard. I think you said 2028, I had actually put 2027 in my speech. So I am willing to go for your number but I hope we will end up closer to mine.

14. As I look at the future, really there are four pillars which I see today as the source of intensified engagement between India and the Latin America and the Caribbean region. These four pillars to my mind are:

a) Supply Chain Diversification: because the pandemic has shown that today there is an urgent global need for more resilience and reliability of supply chains. Whether it is energy, whether it is food or whether it is even consumer security. We, the international economy today needs multiple and redundant sourcing, it needs diversified production and that is something where really there are new opportunities for us.

b) Resource Partnerships: As you can see today, we are the fifth largest economy in the world. Talking of numbers, the Prime Minister has put forward the ambition of becoming the third largest economy in his next term. So that’s the number out there both for the term and the place in the global economic hierarchy. But as we expand, you can already see today the rising demand for oil, gas, for strategic minerals, for food commodities and this is part of the growing progress and prosperity and the rising per capita income in this country. And we see this as really a big opportunity for our partners in Latin America and Caribbean. Indian products and services, in turn, will help to meet the expectations, the aspirations and the price points of the rising middle class of the Latin American region. So we do believe here that there is a resource partnership and a manufacturing fit which would work to our advantage.

c) Sharing Developmental Experiences: As countries of the Global South, we can surely benefit if we actually talk to each other about digital capabilities, health solutions, about agricultural practices and about infrastructure capabilities. Increasing training and exchanges will encourage more market exposure. And my one big takeaway from the last trips that I made to Latin America is that we in India will have to find better ways of growing the training and exchange part of our relationship. We have to customize it much more for the requirements of the Latin American and Caribbean region, we have to make it more user friendly, much more relevant really for your priorities and that is something today that my ministry is looking at very very seriously.

d) Addressing Global Challenges: While we have all the requirements of bilateral and regional cooperation there are actually larger issues, global issues, planetary issues, that we also need to look at because we are very important stakeholders in that as well. And collaborating on issues such as climate change, the concerns of the Global South, and reforming the global financial and multilateral structures, I think these are very essential. And many of you would have noted, that in our G20 Presidency and initiatives like Voice of the South Summit, these are the proof of our intentions, these are really a testament to our commitment to partners in Latin American and the Caribbean.

15. A stronger relationship between us obviously holds lot of potential and great deal of possibilities. By harnessing our shared strengths, our experiences, our capabilities, our resources, we can actually create a lasting partnership that will benefit both our regions. We live in a globalized era and we must now make sure that distance is now no longer an impediment. Modern logistics offer us collaborative possibilities so do modern communications. And we have today the scope for partnerships that we could not have imagined earlier. Our business creativity, the demand in each economy especially the growing middle class demand, the competitive capabilities that we both have these can actually truly create great synergies. I have no doubt that this conclave is another step that would fuel the increasing intensity of our cooperation. I am truly gratified to see the scope, the scale, the level today of the meeting. And I think this bodes very well to the future of our partnership. Once again I welcome you all but I also wish you a very productive meeting and very worthwhile sessions in the days ahead.

Thank you very much for your attention.