Deiss tells India to cut red tape
Switzerland's Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, on an official visit to India, says too many bottlenecks are hindering economic growth between the two countries.
He told business leaders in Calcutta that the challenge for India was to generate greater interest from foreign investors in tapping the country's huge potential.
At a lunch linked with a major economic forum organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Deiss said on Thursday the best solution was to cut red tape.
"The best way to greater foreign investment is to ease the regulatory burden and to improve the general framework conditions for doing business with and in India," he said.
"I am convinced that as intellectual property rights protection improves here – and there is a strong move in this direction – more Swiss investment will enter India especially in knowledge-based sectors."
Deiss, who praised Switzerland's services sector at the "Partnership Summit" in the city, did not mince his words about the jungle of red tape that Swiss companies came up against.
"What our enterprises complain about is bureaucracy, intellectual property - even though India says it is up to date - high tariffs, the question of licences as far as banks are concerned, and corruption," he told swissinfo.
"So there are many little things that add up to that it's not always easy to do business here... It's really something that we have to repeat again and again."
Deiss also met the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Battacharjee, whose main interest seemed to be attracting more Swiss investment in the fast-growing region.
"I told him that we are one of the most important investing countries. We have no orders to give investors [...], so if they [the Indians] want investments, it is up to the host country to put into place the framework needed to become competitive, since investors have a choice."
Switzerland and India have major differences at the World Trade Organization over agriculture, with the Swiss defending a protectionist position and the Indians demanding global access for their products.
Despite this, there are common views on some issues, particularly geographical indications.
"Our common goal is to give our traditional quality products, which are special due to their geographical origin, an added value and competitive advantage on international markets," said the economics minister.
Deiss referred to traditional goods - rice, tea and spices for India, watches and cheese for Switzerland – as products that could benefit from geographical indications.
Plenty to offer
Deiss emphasised that Switzerland and India had plenty to offer each other. He cited initiatives in biotechnology, auto components and textile machinery as sectors with growth potential.
"Swiss textile machinery is very much in demand by Indian textile manufacturers due to its high and sophisticated technologies," he added.
"Switzerland would like to continue to play an important role in the modernisation of Indian textile mills and therefore a delegation of Swiss textile machinery manufacturers will visit India in a few weeks."
After Calcutta, Deiss travels on to Bangalore and New Delhi, where he is due to hold talks with the commerce and industry minister, Kamal Nath, and the finance minister, Shri P. Chidambaram.
A meeting with the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is also scheduled.
swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Calcutta
2004 trade figures:
Exports to India: SFr1.019 billion ($790 million) - up 37 % on 2003.
Imports from India: SFr548.1 million (up 9.6%)
Swiss direct investment: SFr165 million
There are about 130 Swiss businesses established in India, employing around 21,500 people.
Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has described relations between Switzerland and India as a "winning partnership".
He says Switzerland is interested in building a partnership with Indian companies that would like to invest abroad especially in services and high-tech manufacturing sectors.
Between 1995 and 2005 bilateral trade nearly doubled, reaching close to SFr2 billion a year.
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