Visiting Latin America this week, India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia called for deepening India’s engagement with Latin America. At a meeting with business delegates in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Monday night, Scindia urged “leaders on both sides [to] take steps to expedite completion of the process for expansion of the PTA [preferential trade agreement],” with the Mercosur bloc of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Under that agreement, which went into effect in June 2009, the two sides agreed to grant reciprocal tariff preferences; the second stage is to consist of negotiating a free-trade area.
In a feature article in the newly released Spring 2011 issue of Americas Quarterly, Professor Jorge Heine of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Indian Ambassador R. Viswanathan write that “India is now a palpable economic presence from the Caribbean to Uruguay.” In the past decade, Indian companies have invested $12 billion in the region in information technology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, mining, energy, and manufacturing. And while Indo-LAC trade was only $500 million in 1991-1992, it had reached $20 billion by 2010.
Minister Scindia would like that level of trade to increase even more. He told Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemas that he hopes to see trade between Uruguay and India reach the $1 billion mark, up from the current level of $110 million, noting that a double tax avoidance agreement and bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement would be critical to doing so. He also suggested to Uruguayan businessman and entrepreneurs that they visit India to explore their opportunities, contrasting the five-year multiple-entry visas the Indian government would grant them with the options available to Indian businessmen traveling to Uruguay.
Scindia was in Uruguay on the second leg of a 10-day trip to Latin America. He was in Brazil late last week, where he spoke at the World Economic Forum and met with business and government leaders. Late Tuesday he met with his Argentine counterpart, Minister of Industry Debora Giorgi, who assured him that Argentina will review its ban on imported pharmaceutical products after he highlighted it as a significant trade barrier.