Indian Express | April 23, 2008
Chile extends a warm hand, offers FTA with India
Santiago, April 22: Even as the Brazilian Parliament is yet to ratify the India-Mercusor Preferential Trade Agreement signed by its President Lula in 2004, another South American country, Chile, has thrown a surprise on Tuesday, suggesting that it was willing to upgrade its Preferential Trade Agreement with India, signed in 2006, to the level of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
In fact, the suggestion made by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday has caught the visiting Indian delegation off guard, who chose to respond cautiously to the offer.
Bachelet, during her meeting with President Pratibha Patil, said: “Bilateral arrangements will open more opportunities between India and Chile. We should further deepen and widen our economic relationship. This could even shape up in the form of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Chile has all the necessary infrastructure to become a platform for India for doing business in Latin America.”
Bachelet also sounded of the Indian side for an early conclusion of treaty on avoiding double taxation supporting the case for a Free Trade Agreement with India.
“The idea of FTA was one of the suggestions put forward by the Chilean side. The Government will look into all the suggestions on deepening our economic cooperation with Chile,” said Nalin Surie, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs ministry, falling well short of an open welcome to this offer.
“Given the strong credentials of both our economies and the growing outreach of our business houses, the time is now opportune for a substantial intensification of our economic engagement,” was the maximum the Indian President said about the increasing trade relations with Chile while addressing the media after her deliberations with Bachelet. During the discussions, President Bachelet reiterated her country’s support for India’s bid for a permanent membership in UN Security Council.
“We both agreed that time has come to reform major international institutions including United Nations. I have told President Patil about our support to Indian claim of permanent membership to the UN Security Council,” said Bachelet. She also called for reforming international financial institutions like IMF and World Bank.
“We agree that IMF and World Bank have a substantial role to play. But the reform of these institutions is needed for the global good. It is necessary to increase the voting power of emerging economies in the governance of these institutions,” said Bachelet.
Both sides signed four agreements for cooperation in the field of sports, science and technology, air services agreement, and a MoU on furthering the cooperation on Antarctica. Earlier in the day, Patil visited the Wall of Statues, at the Plaza de la India at one of the Central lanes of Santiago, where she paid her tributes to the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Patil also announced US $ 65,000 as contribution from India for the upkeep of Plaza de la India and thanked the Mayor of the region for maintenance of the memorial dedicated to the three Indian leaders. Both the Presidents, who share the credentials of being the first women presidents in their respective countries, also discussed issues related to the empowerment of women and girl children, apart from the issue of inclusive developmental agenda.
“We exchanged views on the special programmes that we have in our countries for the poor and the marginalised sections of society and for the empowerment of women and the girl child. These are causes that have a fundamental bearing on the future development of our societies,” said Patil.