India seeks to enhance trade ties with Latin America: EAM Jaishankar

Bogota: India seeks to bolster its trade with Latin America which is approaching USD 50 billion, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said, as he highlighted that the Indian companies are investing significantly in the region in sectors like energy, mining, agriculture and automobiles.

Addressing the India-Colombia Business Forum here in Colombia’s capital on Thursday, he said his four-nation trip to Latin America was aimed at exploring ways to upgrade India’s level of cooperation with the region.

“Our purpose in being here today is to highlight the growing presence of India in Latin America. Trade volumes between us are approaching the USD 50 billion level annually. Our companies are investing significantly in the region, from energy and mining to agriculture and auto sector,” he said.

Indian companies are executing projects in Latin America, including in infrastructure, power transmission and mining, he said, adding that they are also delivering products in the shipping and aviation domain.

“Even where trade is concerned, while we naturally seek to expand its volumes, the decision before us is when, where and how much to invest. The pharmaceutical sector is particularly seized of this challenge.

“Our endeavour is naturally to assess the comparative ease of doing business, among the countries of this region. We focus on market access issues, regulatory complexities and non-tariff barriers. Predictability of the business environment is also an important factor,” he said in a statement.

Jaishankar said during the Covid-19 pandemic, India truly established that it was the pharmacy of the world by supplying almost 100 countries with vaccines and 150 countries – including from the developed world – with an increased supply of relevant medicines.

“The fact is, that Covid-19 has made us all much more health conscious but also aware of supply chain vulnerabilities. Cost is also a relevant factor. If we are looking at more sources, regionalised production and competitive pricing, I would suggest to our Colombian friends that the Indian industry is your natural partner,” he said.

Highlighting the areas of potential engagement between India and Colombia, Jaishankar said India also has a traditional medicine and wellness practice that could have strong business implications.

“The digital domain has also seen exceptional progress in India…Today, India is very much the hub of innovation and start-ups. This is a land of 100 unicorns and growing. Whether you are interested in cyber security or artificial intelligence, drones or space applications, reaching out to Indian business is highly recommended,” he said as he tried to woo Colombian investors.

Energy is also an important domain of convergence, he said, adding that there have been significant investments in the oil sector by India and energy forms the core of Colombia’s exports to India.

“India will be driving much of the additional demand in fossil fuel, in the coming decades. That makes a stronger case for more sustained partnerships. India is also extremely active when it comes to renewables and electric mobility. These two are areas of potential engagement,” Jaishankar said.

“I believe that the challenge before us today is to scale up what is already done. But at the same time, to look for new domains that meet emerging demands and equally factor in emerging capabilities. At the end of the day, businesses will go where it is welcome, where it is mutually beneficial and where it is encouraged by policy. That is a message for all stakeholders,” he said.

Jaishankar is on a nine-day trip to Guyana, Panama, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, his first visit as the external affairs minister to these Latin American countries and the Caribbean.

“Arrived in Santo Domingo for my first official visit. Thank Vice Minister @josejuliogomezb for a warm welcome. Look forward to my engagements in the Dominican Republic,” he tweeted on Friday.