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Deiss leads trade offensive to India

The fast-growing Indian economy offers opportunities for Swiss business Keystone

Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss travels to India on Wednesday with a delegation of business leaders eager to strengthen bilateral trade ties.

This content was published on January 18, 2006 - 08:04

Deiss will meet political and economic leaders in Calcutta and Bangalore before a final stop-off in New Delhi.

He is due to hold talks in the capital with the Indian commerce and industry minister, Kamal Nath, and the finance minister, P Chidambaram.

A meeting with the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is also scheduled.

Switzerland says that India is of priority interest because it is a major regional and international power, an emerging force in the economic and scientific spheres and a country facing many challenges in its development.

"India is a very fast-growing market at the moment and we haven't had a high-level visit for some time, so it's really now due that we have such an official trip," said Anne-Pascale Krauer Müller, head of the Asia and Oceania division at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

"Among the Asian markets it's one of the two fastest growing for us. We had a 37-per-cent rise in exports in 2004 and this is quite impressive," she told swissinfo.

Partnership Summit

In Calcutta, the first stop on the five-day visit, Deiss will attend the Partnership Summit, a major economic forum organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries.

He is also due to meet the head of the state government of West Bengal, which has the third largest economy in India.

With about eight per cent of India's population, West Bengal is one of the largest consumer markets in the country.

Deiss will then travel onward to Bangalore in the state of Karnataka, best known as India's IT powerhouse or the Silicon State of India.

The visit will allow Deiss to look at technological developments in what has become a dynamic region, as well as visit a number of firms there. He will also meet local authorities and the Swiss business community.

Opportunities

Krauer Müller says there are a number of initiatives from the Swiss private sector that are taking a good look at the opportunities in India.

"In the field of biotech we see a good potential. Another sector with good prospects is the automotive area, with the construction of cars developing very fast in India at the moment."

But she also believes there are further opportunities for Indian companies to export to Switzerland, including software and IT services as well as the main Swiss import category, textiles.

"The Indian textile industry is modernising to produce goods of a higher quality and be more competitive in the world market.

"In this context, India is a very important market for the Swiss textile machine industry at the moment," she said.

More than tourism

According to Krauer Müller, one of the aims of the mission is to underline that Switzerland is much more than a tourist destination for Indians.

"Switzerland has a very good image in India but not necessarily in the fields of high tech or manufacturing, so one idea is to bring another image of Switzerland to India and its entrepreneurs."

She believes that Swiss business moves into India have been slower and perhaps less risky than into another mass market with high potential - China.

"These are markets where you have to look carefully at your business plan and choose the right partners before you go.

"We have established a Swiss business hub, which is an advisory service based in Mumbai. They have specialists who can help especially small and medium-sized companies from Switzerland to take the right approach and avoid making mistakes."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

The first ever friendship treaty signed by independent India was with Switzerland, signed by India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, on August 14, 1948.
The two countries have maintained a cordial friendship, kept alive by regular visits, and economic and cultural activities.
Nehru admired Switzerland as a model democratic state and sent his daughter, Indira, to a girls' boarding school in Bex, canton Vaud.

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In brief

Swiss interest in trade with India dates back to 1856 when the Volkaart brothers - sometimes referred to as the Swiss East Indian Company - established a trading office in India.

Several Swiss companies had been active in India even before India's independence, in areas like pharmaceuticals, engineering, commodity trade and financial services, including insurance.

Trade and economic relations between the two countries have been growing steadily.

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