India to deepen ties with Latin America with Khurshid visit

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) India is set to deepen its ties with Latin America, where China has a marked presence, with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to visit Argentina, Colombia and Chile on a 10-day visit.

Khurshid, who has been very busy ever since he became the external affairs minister Oct, returns Thursday after a four-day visit to Germany and Belgium.

After a day's break, Khurshid is to leave for Argentina, Colombia and Chile, an official source told IANS Wednesday.

India and Chile are near to formalizing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), an arrangement equivalent to a free trade agreement.

The two countries have a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) reached in 2007. The CEPA would help reduce or eliminate duties on maximum number of products they trade in.

India is pressing for a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Chile and has asked the Latin American nation to further liberalise its visa regime to help the movement of professionals and businessmen.

India-Chile bilateral trade increased to $2.6 billion in 2011-12 from $1.9 billion in 2009-10.

Chile's main export to India is copper, and with the inking of the new trade agreement the product is expected to reach India with zero tariffs. Chile also exports paper pulp among other things to India. The two countries are seeking cooperation in areas like information technology, oceanography, science and technology, agriculture and food processing and engineering and infrastructure.

India and Colombia have a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) which came into effect in June 2012. India has also urged Colombia to expedite ratification of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) to boost investor confidence.

Colombia is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, coal, minerals - that India needs to sustain its high growth rate. On the other hand, India's strength and expertise in IT, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biotech and railway construction are sought by Colombia.

Earlier this month, NGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas investment arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), has discovered oil on an onland block, CPO-5, in Colombia.

OVL holds 70 per cent participating interest in the block located at the Ilanos basin of Colombia. The project was under phase-1 of exploration, with a commitment of drilling two exploratory wells.

Argentina, a leading agricultural economy, has invited farmers from India to purchase land there and cultivate it. India is also a major importer of Argentine soybean oil, importing $1.8 billion in 2010.

Indian companies also have a major presence in Latin American countries. Indian IT companies in Chile include TCS. While in Argentina, there are over 15 Indian companies, with many being in the IT and IT-enabled services sector, employing thousands of people.

The others are in various manufacturing areas, from pharma to cosmetics to agro chemicals.

India-Latin American trade stood at $20 billion in 2010, way below the $140 billion in Chinese-Latin American trade.

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