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Couchepin to meet Indian prime minister

Pascal Couchepin, the Swiss economics minister, is meeting India's prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the president, K.R. Narayanan, on day two of his visit to India. There are still clear differences between the two countries over trade issues.

This content was published on February 16, 2000 - 11:48

Pascal Couchepin, the Swiss economics minister, is meeting the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the president, K.R. Narayanan, during the second day of his visit to India.

It follows a busy first day, during which Couchepin met with members of India's trade and industry association in Delhi. In a speech to delegates, he admitted that Switzerland and India still held differing views on world trade, but was optimisitic that the future would bring stronger ties.

"Our two countries didn't share the same point of view during the World trade Organisation sessions in Seattle. But our views are much closer than they were 10 or 20 years ago," Couchepin said.

One bone of contention is reportedly the length of the transition periods requested by India for applying certain WTO rules. There are concerns, for example, that Swiss firms wanting to set up research facilities in the subcontinent could be badly affected by lax patenting laws.

However, the trade and industry association has pointed out that such problems have not prevented investments by United States firms. Moreover, it says, India has suffered in the past from current rules on patents.

Couchepin is being accompanied on his four-day visit by a business delegation, led by the president of the Swiss Trade and Industry Association, Andres Leuenberger.

At an official level, he is due to sign a protocol modifying the double taxation agreement between Switzerland and India. There will also be an exchange of ratification instruments relating to a 1997 agreement on the protection of investments.

Discussions are also due to be held in Bombay and Hyderabad with officials from the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. These will focus on development and industry questions.

From staff and wire reports

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