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India wants early trade pact with African nations

JOHANNESBURG: India has pitched for early conclusion of the preferential trade pact with African nations, which is expected to help enhance business ties between India and minerals rich countries of the continent. Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma urged his South African counterpartRob Davies to expedite the much delayed India-SACU preferential trade pact that will reduce tariffs on several key products.

Sharma is in Johannesburg for the third Indo-Africa Trade ministers meet. The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South 
Africa and Swaziland.

India has been waiting for the response from the African side on its proposal of an average margin of preference of 70%. This means imports from 
SACU will be subject to a tariff 70% lower than the most favoured nation rate.

The bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020 is a modest one and is certainly achievable, Sharma said. Air connectivity and visa related issues were the two other concerns raised at the second India-Africa 
Business Council ( IABC) meet here, co-chaired by Bharti group chairman Sunil Mittal. Indian business chamber FICCI is the institutional partner of the council.

Sharma assured that the air connectivity issue has been taken up at the highest level and that 
Air India will resume its flights to Africa from 2014 onwards.

"The issue of air connectivity has to be addressed. The matter has been looked into at the prime ministers' level, and at my level. You will soon see resumption of flights by Indian carriers both Indian private and public", Sharma said addressing the council. On liberalisation of visa regime, Sharma said that both sides can identify the apex industry chambers that can help in this process.

He also strongly took up the case of Indian pharmaceuticals industry saying that India is a supplier of quality low-cost generics drug.

"There is a concerted campaign by vested interest groups and multinational cartels to confuse the discourse which questions the credibility and efficacy of Indian generics. We must remain vigilant against such voices," he said. India exports low-cost generic drugs to over 230 countries in the world and 1/5th of them are directed towards Africa.

Industry leaders collectively identified pharma, agri, minerals and mines and oil as priority sectors of private investment and integration and presented a report to the trade ministers.

India also sought support from the African nations ahead of the ninth 
WTO ministerial in Bali in December to safeguard interest of the developing nations. India has been pushing for the food security proposal of the G-33 nations, which wants the subsidies that are a part of the procurement for public stockholding from poor and marginal farmers not to be regarded as aprohibited subsidy by the WTO.