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Swiss want more spice in trade ties with India

Deiss (left) met commerce and trade minister Kamal Nath at the end of his five-day visit to India swissinfo.ch

Wrapping up his visit to India, Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss says both countries have every interest in cementing and pushing economic ties.

This content was published on January 23, 2006 - 20:15

Deiss was speaking in the Indian capital, New Delhi, late on Monday after talks with the Indian commerce and trade minister, Kamal Nath.

At a briefing for journalists after their meeting Kamal Nath said he hoped that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would soon have a better role to play in bilateral ties.

"I have asked Mr Deiss to work out a visit of a Swiss SME delegation which the Indian government will help to organise. That's important. It's win-win for both countries.

"In India, we have the skilled workforce and Switzerland has the technology, so it's a good thing."

Earlier in the day, Deiss paid a courtesy visit to the Indian president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

At a lunch at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce of Industry, Deiss emphasised that he wanted investment to flow both ways, not just from Switzerland to India.

"We also need to keep jobs in Switzerland, therefore we welcome Indian direct investment in our country.

"I would like to emphasise that Switzerland is interested in being a partner for Indian companies seeking to invest abroad, especially in services and high-tech manufacturing sectors."

Insights and contacts

Deiss told swissinfo that the Swiss businesspeople who had accompanied him had gained useful insights into doing business in India.

"They have certainly been able to have a lot of insights and contacts to do better business and understand the way the Indian economy is working and growing and [see] where the opportunities are."

But Alexandre Jetzer, from Swiss pharmaceutical concern Novartis, was probably speaking for many others when he said India had still to cut red tape.

"We congratulate the Indian government on meeting its commitment to introduce product patents in the face of several challenges [but] impress upon it the urgent need for further reforms to make India the place for research-focused companies to do business," he said.

Although there is close cooperation between Switzerland and India at the World Trade Organization (WTO), two thorny issues remain: agriculture and industrial tariffs.

In a nutshell, Switzerland has high tariffs in agriculture, whereas India has high tariffs in industry.

Win-win

"It's a perfect situation to make a good deal because both can win. We have common interests in services. India is now a strong fighter in favour of a serious result on services [at the WTO]," Deiss said.

As to his own impressions of the country, Deiss said there were in effect two Indias: one developed and prosperous, the other still lagging behind.

"That means we have the traditional sectors of industry where people live in very poor conditions, yet on the other hand there are growing and very efficient modern enterprises, which are among the best in the world.

"This visit confirmed my conviction that India has taken off and is on a road of no return towards a more developed and wealthy economy."

But Deiss said the challenges ahead were enormous. "If you think that India has 150 times the Swiss population you can measure how huge the task is and how much effort is still needed."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes in New Delhi

Key facts

2004 trade figures:
Exports to India: SFr1.019 billion ($810 million) – up 37 % on 2003.
Imports from India: SFr548.1 million (up 9.6%).
Swiss direct investment: SFr165 million.
There are about 130 Swiss businesses established in India, employing around 21,500 people.

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