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Run-up to India-ASEAN FTA : Vietnam & Thailand gear up+Environment Issues

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  • Indian Society For Sustainable Agricultur
    NEWS Bulletin from Indian Society For Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development ...   1. Run-up to operationalisation of India-ASEAN FTA - Thailand for
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2009
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      NEWS Bulletin from Indian Society For Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development
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      1. Run-up to operationalisation of India-ASEAN FTA - Thailand for boosting bilateral trade with India, eager on investment - Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement on the anvil
       
      2. Ahead of operationalisation of India-ASEAN FTA - Vietnam seeks more Indian investment - IT, textiles, banking, energy, mining, infrastructure are key areas
       
      3. India: National Ganga River Basin Authority to act soon - Environment ministry not for linking rivers - Proposes Save Dolphin Project
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      Run-up to operationalisation of India-ASEAN FTA

      Thailand for boosting bilateral trade with India, eager on investment
       
      Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement on the anvil
       
       
       
      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Wed 07 of Oct., 2009 13:08 UTC

      New Delhi, Oct 7 : Thai Government would sort out critical trade issues like rules of origin and safeguard measures to give a fillip to Thailand-India? bilateral trade and investments even as it foresees a greater flow of two-way investments following the conclusion of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on August 14 this year.
       
      India and Thailand are eager for a comprehensive agreement including more of services and investments. Thai companies are eager to invest in infrastructure projects in India.
       
      The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh will visit Thailand in late October, this year to sort out trade irritants and the Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to visit India around early December, this year.
       
      Addressing Indian and Thai business leaders at the India-Thailand Business Forum, organised by FICCI, Royal Thai Embassy and the Board of Investment of Thailand in Delhi on Wednesday, the visiting Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Korbsak Sabhavasu said : “The India-Thailand? Free Trade Agreement Framework signed in October 2003 covers trade in goods, services, investment and cooperation between the two countries. The Early Harvest Programme started since 2006 has already reduced tariffs in 82 categories of goods such as plastic pellets, air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, radios, ball bearings and automotive components. At present both the countries are engaged in converting the FTA into a comprehensive agreement to include more services and investments. This will further boost the growth in trade and investment between India and Thailand in the future.”

      Sabhavasu said that he would talk to the India government for encouraging more Thai investment in Indian infrastructure.
       
      India-Thailand bilateral trade rose to $4,108.91 million in 2007-08. The trade balance was heavily tilted in favour of Thailand with its exports amounting to $2,301 million while India’s exports to Thailand was $1,807.91 million. Major items of Indian exports were gems and jewellery, non-ferrous metals, primary and semi-finished iron and steel and oil meals. Major items of Thai exports were electronic goods, non-electrical machinery, artificial resins and plastic materials, iron and steel.

      Sabhavasu informed that the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement signed on August 14, 2009 would create a new free trade area of 1.7 billion people covering 11 countries – India and 10 ASEAN countries with a combined GDP of $2.3 trillion. This FTA would lead to tariff reduction for more than 4,700 categories of goods in the member countries from January 1, 2010.

      He said, “I also anticipate even greater flow of investments in the near future between India and Thailand. I believe that India’s ‘Look East Policy’ and Thailand ‘Look West Policy’ would help in improving the economic relations between the two nations as also supplement each other in enlarging market size and business opportunities.”
       
      The Thai Deputy Prime Minister said that with the strategic location of Thailand and its bilateral and regional FTAs, Indian enterprises could enjoy access to the Southeast Asian market, particularly the Mekong region. A growing number of Indian companies have opened branches in Thailand such as the Aditya Birla Group, Tata Steel, Dabur Pharma, Usha Martin, Ranbaxy, Lupin Laboratories, Indo-Rama? Group, 3i Infotech, Infosys, Satyam Computers and NIIT. Most recently, in 2006, Tata Steel took over the Thailand-based Millennium Steel with an investment of $ 130 million.

      “The Government of Thailand will give priority to mutual cooperation between India and Thailand. We are confident of the Indian skills, knowledge, resources and potential. We will ensure effective implementation of the existing agreements and policies, and seek new measures to facilitate more investments from India,” Sabhavasu said adding that he was looking to support investments from India, especially for projects that will create a knowledge-based economy and enhance economic sustainability. Thailand, he said, was ready for investments and cooperation from India to increase the prosperity and strengthen the relationship between the two nations.

      The head of the India desk in the Board of Investment of Thailand, Songsak Limbanyen, pointed out that doing business with Thailand was an attractive proposition as there were no restrictions on foreign currency remittances, no export requirement, no foreign equity restrictions in the manufacturing sector and no local content requirement.
       
      The chairman of the committee on India-Thailand/India-ASEAN FTA and BIMSTEC, Boonpong Santiwattanatam said that both countries can benefit through ASEAN-India FTA. The Thai side will benefit from colour television, aluminimum, plastic, gems and jewellery, iron and rubber while India will benefit from gems and jewellery, copper, plastic, rubber, marine products. “It is necessary to push forward the negotiations in India-Thailand FTA and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral? Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), he said.
       
      He said Thailand has invested in India in electricity and electronics, automotive and chemical products and partly in food sector. India is interested to invest in Thailand in agriculture machinery, tractor, auto parts, textiles, medicine, food and rubber.
       
      The chairman of India-Thailand Joint Business Council (JBC) and Managing Director, Indo Rama Synthetics (I) Ltd, OP Lohia said that while India and Thailand were connected to each other by over 200 flights per week, this connectivity needed to be improved in terms of roads and railways. “The idea of a road link between India and Thailand cannot but captivate one’s imagination. For India, it would mean road connectivity with all of ASEAN, for Thailand, it would mean road connectivity with a market of more than a billion people,” he said.

      He said that there were huge opportunities for both countries for two-way investments in the development of urban infrastructure, knowledge economy, chemicals and petrochemicals industry, food processing, tourism, health and wellness industry, and gems and jewellery.
       
      The business forum was also addressed by the Ambassador of Thailand to India, Krit Kraichitti, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand in India, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya and Mr. Rajan Kohli, Advisor, FICCI.
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      Ahead of operationalisation of India-ASEAN FTA
       
      Vietnam seeks more Indian investment
       
      IT, textiles, banking, energy, mining, infrastructure are key areas
       
       
       
      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Thu 01 of Oct., 2009 13:22 UTC
       
      New Delhi, Oct 1 : Vietnam has sought greater Indian investments in e-governance, IT software, garments and textiles, banking and finance, energy, mining, infrastructure, consumer goods, science and technology and environment protection.
       
      The visiting Vice President of Vietnam, Ms Nguyen Thi Doan, while addressing a business meeting organized by the apex Indian industry body – FICCI – in Delhi on Thursday, said : “Vietnam could avail of India’s expertise in e-governance, IT software and agriculture, while India could import light engineering products from Vietnam.”
       
      Doan is leading a 70-member official and business delegation to India. Vietnam is slated to don the mantle of the presidency of ASEAN in 2010. India has recently signed a free trade agreement with ASEAN, which is likely to be operationalised from January 1, 2010 as far as trade in goods is concerned. Thus in this context Doan’s visit assumes importance.
       
      She said that despite the global financial crisis, the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Vietnam continued to rise. The total FDI flows in 2008 was US$ 71.7 billion, a 200% rise over the previous year. The strong commitment of foreign investors to the Vietnamese economy follows the government’s pursuance of the reforms aimed at improving the investment climate, ensuring equal economic opportunities for all sectors of the economy and its commitment to develop physical infrastructure as also education and health programmes.
       
      In 2008, Vietnam’s GDP growth rate was estimated at 6.23%, export growth rate at 29.5%. In 2008 India’s exports to Vietnam was valued at $2094.4 million while India’s imports from Vietnam was estimated at $388.99 million. However in the first half of 2009, India’s exports to Vietnam have fallen by 38.66%, while Vietnam’s exports to India have declined by 3.64%.
       
      Major items of India’s export to Vietnam include animal feed, pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals, plastic and linoleum products, sea food, machinery and equipment, iron and steel, pesticides, leather and leather garments and other kinds of metals and fabrics. India’s imports from Vietnam include pepper, tea, coal, rubber, coal, cinnamon, electronic components, leather and leather made-ups, coal, electronics, machinery and coffee
       
      Major India companies like Tata Steel, ONGC Videsh Ltd, Nagarjuna group, KCP group, Ranbaxy India, DSM Manufacturing and Services, Godrej group, Vallabhdas Kanji Ltd, Alliance Minerals, SOL Pharmaceuticals, RK Marble Pvt Ltd, Arihant Oil, Vedic Elements Ent Ltd, Shiva Plastics, Astral Computers, Sachna Exports, Olam Co, N Ranga Roao & Sons, United Phosphorus, Java Softech, Microtel Sterilisation Services, Roha Dyechem, GIMPEX, Minda India, Suvidha Business Solution, Mangalam Alloys, Epicentre Research Technologies, Spices Import Export Co, Consus Pvt Ltd, Inkor Autotech India, Jonvest Co and Iwa Direct Co have set up joint ventures in Vietnam.
       
      Doan urged Indian industry to invest in IT software, garments and textiles and banking and finance.
       
      Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, Nguyen Duc Hoa said that his country has the potential to attract investments on account of a stable environment, good connectivity and diverse natural resources. He urged the Indian industry to invest in oil and natural gas, mining, energy, consumer goods, infrastructure, human resources development, science and technology and environment protection.
       
      The chairman of Dak Lac People’s Committee, Lu Ngoc Cu invited Indian entrepreneurs to invest in Dak Lac Province particularly in coffee, rubber, forests, cashew nut plantations, aquaculture, mining and eco-tourism. The chairperson of Vietnam Women Entrepreneur Council and leader of the business delegation, Tran Thi Thuy urged Indian industry to invest in IT and agriculture sectors.#
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      India: National Ganga River Basin Authority to act soon

      Environment ministry not for linking rivers
       
      Proposes Save Dolphin Project
       
      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Tue 06 of Oct., 2009 09:38 UTC

      New Delhi, Oct 6 : There seems to be two different views in the Indian government on linking river basins. Notwithstanding the Union Ministry for Water Resources aggressively pushing for linking major river basins in the country, the Union minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh has openly opposed the move saying that it would not only invite “environmental and ecological disaster but also the problem would assume international dimensions.”

      Speaking to mediapersons in Delhi on Monday, the minister said “though linking of Ken and Betwa rivers basins and Krishna and Godavari rivers basins have proved to be beneficial, we have to be very careful in our plans to link other river basins. Many of the proposed river links may not only invite environmental and ecological disaster but also the problem would assume international dimensions.”

      Emphasizing the need for making the sacred river Ganga pollution free, Ramesh said that his ministry would launch Save Dolphin Project in the near future to increase the population of this aquatic creature which has dwindled to 2000. The presence of adequate number of dolphins in river Gaga would vouch for its cleanness, he said and added that dolphin would soon be declared as National Aquatic Creature.

      The dolphin issue was raised by the Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar at the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) chaired by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. The Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank suggested setting up of the Ganga Museum. NGBRA was set up in February 20, 2009 under Environment Protect Act as an empowered authority.

      Ramesh said that his ministry was of the view that in and around the 130 km long area of the river Ganga (Bhagirathi) stretching from Gomukh to Uttarkashi there should be no industrial project to pollute the sacred river. The both the environment and power ministries would conduct a study on the existing three hydro-power projects – Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri and Bhairon Ghati – and submit a report to NGRBA within 60 days.

      The NGRBA would launch Mission Clean Ganga Project and World Bank has been engaged for long term support of authority’s work programme. Assistance of $1 billion is indicated for first phase. Proposal of $3 million project preparation facility was forwarded to World Bank and has been approved, the minister said and added that a proposal has been submitted to 13th Finance Commission for one time allocation of Rs 1320 crore for meeting O&M needs of STPs for 5 years;.

      No untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluent would be dumped into river Ganga by 2020. Currently there is a sewage treatment capacity of only about 1000 mld against 3000 mld sewage being generated in towns along Ganga. An estimated investment of Rs 15,000 crores over next 10 years will be required to create the necessary treatment and sewerage infrastructure. It was proposed that the Union government would bear 70% of the expenditure and the state governments the remaining 30%. It was, however, decided that matter would be decided after consultations with the Planning Commission

      While comprehensive river basin management plan will be ready by December, 2010, on-going sewage treatment projects to be put on fast-track and states to formulate DPRs for new such projects in critical pollution hotspots and major towns on Ganga and major tributaries by November 30, 2009. Tripartite MOAs to be signed by February 1, 2010 and initial portfolio of projects to be sanctioned by March 1, 2010.

      Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to work with states to prepare specific action plans for dealing with problem of industrial pollution in Ganga Basin by January 31, 2010
      A Standing Committee of NGRBA to be constituted headed by Union Finance Minister to meet more frequently and review implementation. An empowered Steering committee headed by Unoion Environment Secretary to be set up for fast track clearance of projects on JNNURM lines. Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to create separate and distinct professional team to service the NGRBA and the Empowered Standing Committee.

      It may be recalled that Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was initiated since June 22, 1985 and Rs 900 crore had been spent so far but the results have not been encouraging. According to Ramesh the GAP undertook the responsibility for cleaning the Ganga water around select cities, while the new Mission Clean Ganga of NGRBA would cover the entire stretch of Ganga

      NGRBA has invited EOIs for preparing a comprehensive Ganga river basin management plan. RFPs have been issued to 10 shortlisted firms. Work will be awarded by Dec 15, this year. Rs 250 crore have been allocated in the Union Budget for 2009-10 for NGRBA. Rs 500 crore per year allocation in the remaining 2 years of 11th Plan has been agreed to by the Planning Commission.

      Empowered State River Conservation Authorities have been notified for West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. A Model Tripartite Memorandum of Agreement between Centre, States & ULBs has been prepared by National Institute of Urban Affairs. It has been circulated to States for comments. The MOA will link flow of funds to achievement of milestones and measurable improvement in water quality. Pilot projects of Sankat Mochan Foundation at Varanasi (pond based treatment) and National Botanical Research Institute (plant based wastewater management) at Hardwar have been approved, in order to encourage innovative approaches to river cleaning

      Work on GIS based mapping of Ganga basin has been entrusted to NIC. This will be completed by June 2010. It will be a useful decision making tool.. Consultations with state governments, urban local bodies and experts have been held for identifying river conservation projects to be implemented in PPP mode through special purpose vehicles. Action has been initiated for third party evaluation of schemes. Independent institutions will be appointed by Dec 2009 for this purpose. Improved water quality monitoring system is being put in place. Work on online data transmission from monitoring organisations and public access to WQM data is expected to be completed by Dec 2009.
       
      NGRBA has finalized a proposal for awarding consultancy by January 2010 for creation of a state-of-the-art knowledge centre on Ganga. A Compendium of sewage treatment technologies has been prepared by IIT-Kanpur for guidance of implementing agencies/ULBs. The NGRBA is reviewing a status paper on Ganga has been prepared by Alternate Hydro Energy Centre, IIT Roorkee providing an overview of Ganga Basin.#
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