· India is integrally linked with the regional integration of ASEAN countries. Economic partnerships that emerge from this interconnectedness will spur the transformation of all regional economies. Stating this in his keynote address at the inaugural session of ‘The Business Conclave: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV)’ on ‘Creating New Economic Opportunities’, organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi, Mr Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, said that India and the CLMV countries should look to deepen bilateral partnerships in areas like agriculture, mining, oil & gas, energy, healthcare, skills development, and textiles.
Mr Sharma underlined the importance of building overland, air and sea connectivity between India and the CLMV countries. In this context, he referred to the progress of the Trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Project and its extension to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam which will open up huge opportunities for trade, investment and tourism flows.
Stating that India hosts a large number of students from CLMV countries, Mr Sharma said that India could play a major role in training the young people of CLMV countries for employment in key sectors like manufacturing. He added that India is also involved in establishing English language training academies for young people in the region.
He added that Government of India is directing focused attention on strengthening the transportation and transit links between the North East Region in India and CLMV countries.
· Mr Hou Taing Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, Cambodia, said in his address that the Cambodian government sees a big role for private players in the county’s economic diversification initiatives. Mr Eng cited agriculture and agro-processing, construction, water, electricity, energy development, tourism, skills development and physical infrastructure like ports and roads as key destinations for foreign investments.
Mr Eng said the Cambodian Development Council is tasked to create a friendly business environment for foreign investors entering the Cambodian economy.
· Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao PDR, said, his government has accorded the highest priority for the development of agriculture, agro-business, tourism, electricity, mining, education and healthcare sectors. He pointed out that Indian companies are actively involved in all these sectors in Lao PDR. India is currently the 10th largest source of FDI in the country. Dr Sisouphanthong also said that Lao PDR needs foreign investments of up to $17 billion to realise the country’s goal of sustaining 8% GDP growth till 2020.
· Ms Nguyen Thi Hong, Vice Chairperson, People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, said that Ho Chi Minh City has emerged as a major hub for hi-tech, manufacturing, agro-processing, construction and other businesses. Ms Hong underlined that the city has a large trained manpower base that supports a wide range of industries. She invited India to participate in the international tourism convention that will be held in Ho Chi Minh City in 2014.
· Dr Pwint San, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar, said the Business Conclave has set the stage for greater bilateral trade and investment flows between India and Myanmar. He urged the Indian and CLMV leadership to consider setting up an India-CLMV Business Advisory Council.
Dr San said that Myanmar offers wide-ranging investment opportunities to both large enterprises and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). He also said that Myanmar could be India’s gateway to Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and indeed other ASEAN countries.
· Earlier, speaking at the plenary session on ‘Trade, Investment and Financing’, Mr Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, said that CMLV countries have registered impressive growth, especially in the manufacturing sector. This makes it imperative for India to deepen its economic engagements with this region.
Mr Kher called for diversification of India’s trade with the CLMV countries. Currently, 70-80% of the bilateral trade is limited to 5-10 products. He added that trade ties with Myanmar hold immense potential for growth.
· Mr T C A Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director, EXIM Bank of India, highlighted the potential of Indian investments in the CLMV countries and pointed out that the average GDP growth of the four countries is higher than that of the ASEAN region as a whole. Besides, the CLMV countries which have large reserves of natural resources are pursuing well directed national development plans.
· At the session, a study on ‘India’s Trade and Investment Relations with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV): Enhancing Economic Cooperation’ conducted by EXIM Bank of India was released.
· The Conclave opened on October 21 with a special session on ‘Building Connectivity. Linking The Region’. Speaking at this session, Mr Ashok Kantha, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, said that connectivity with the CLMV countries is a strategic priority for India. The various physical infrastructure projects undertaken for strengthening India-CLMV connectivity are making good progress, so the focus is now on creating the soft infrastructure that facilitates effective use of the physical infrastructure for seamless movement of people and goods between the two regions. The proposed ASEAN-India Transit Transportation Agreement, which is expected to b concluded by 2015, is a case in point.
· Mr Sanjay Kirloskar, Chairman CII-ASEAN & ANZ Regional Committee, CII and Chairman & Managing Director, Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, said that robust physical connectivity between India and the CLMV countries will not only boost bilateral trade and investment flows but also bring the people of the two regions closer to each other.
· Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII, said in his opening remarks that India’s bilateral trade and investment flows with the CLMV countries are growing but still way below the potential. The Business Conclave is a big opportunity for businesses on both sides to forge long-term partnerships to leverage the emerging growth opportunities.
· Over 50 member strong delegation from CMLV countries and over 150 delegates from India participated at the two day conclave organized in New Delhi on 21-22 October, 2013. The conclave highlighted the investment potential for Indian industry in the ASEAN group of least-developed countries (LDCs) in sectors of infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and services, especially resources sectors and knowledge industries.
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