High Level Conference on “EU-India Strategic Plan: Enhancing Trade and Investment”
Brussels, 8 -9 November 2005
In light of increasing interest in economic and trade relations between the 25-member European bloc and India a high level conference on EU-India Strategic Plan: Enhancing Trade and Investment was organized jointly by Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC), Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) and Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Belgium in association with the Embassy of India (Brussels) on 8th and 9th November 2005 in Brussels, Belgium.
The inaugural session followed by Gala dinner was held at Sheraton hotel on 8th November whereas the business session was held at the European Parliament, Brussels on 9th November. The conference was attended by over 200 participants from India, Europe and United States and included representatives of industries, multinationals, business leaders, international organizations, members of European Parliament, diplomats, policy makers, scientists and journalists.
The aim of the conference was to bring together different actors involved, analyze the trade and investment opportunities and constraints, and explore the ways and means of strengthening further collaboration between India and European Union (EU) for mutual benefit of citizens of both regions.
On 8th evening the inaugural session of the conference started with a welcome address by Mr. Nirj Deva, Chairman, EICC and Member of European Parliament (MEP) followed by addresses by Lord Diljit S Rana (U.K.), Mr. Ashok Sajjanhar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Indian Embassy, Brussels, Ms. Nina Gill, MEP & President, South Asia Delegation of the European Parliament, Dr. Prem Sharma, Patron, EICC and Chairman India development Trust, U.K., Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman GOPIO International and finally a warm welcome and thanks to all speakers and participants by Mr. Sunil Prasad, Secretary General, EICC & President of GOPIO, Belgium.
The strengths and weaknesses of Indian economy, partnership between EU and India and the investment in India within a global context were highlighted time and again. The speakers highlighted the common democratic values shared by India of over1 billion people and the 25 nation EU of 455 million people, long historical relations between Europe and India and synergies between India and the EU. It was emphasized that there is a need for more awareness about each other both in EU and India, which can be achieved partly through movement of students, scientists, businessmen and others in both directions.
With increasingly aging population, shortage of qualified manpower (for example, a shortfall of 700,000 knowledge-based workers in EU) and high cost of labour and production, the EU will not be able to maintain the pace of innovation necessary for future progress of the European society. India with talented pool of professionals can help Europe provided that Europe creates a suitable environment for such professionals and their families. The protectionism practiced by EU in certain sectors will be counterproductive in long run. Europe can benefit by bringing the talented professionals from India and India can benefit from the European expertise. However, the visa difficulty for Indians to EU countries is perceived as a barrier both for professionals and business community. Unless India improves the infrastructure and addresses the issues hindering the foreign investment, it will not be able to attract as much foreign investment as it should. The bottlenecks in Indian bureaucracy and slow decision process are considered as handicaps in promoting investment in India.
In recent years Indian government has taken several steps to ease and encourage the foreign investment. At political level, under the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and India, several cooperation agreements in different fields have been signed. In the current knowledge-based society and globalization, the national or regional barriers are disappearing. World Trade Organization (WTO) to whom both India and EU are signatories has to be reckoned as a force in regulating the international trade. There are opportunities for Indian and European businesses to cooperate for mutual benefits. People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Non-Resident Indians (NRI) can be a valuable link between India and Europe.
The business session of the day-long conference took place at the European Parliament on Wednesday, November 9th.
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