West indian countries

Latin American and Caribbean countries look to India to diversify trade, experts call for dialogue

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Countries in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region have begun to look to India to diversify its trade and find ways to leverage its technological know-how in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and IT. And that became even more evident after the pandemic and war in Ukraine altered supply chains, hurting LAC economies.

“Trade between India and LAC has almost doubled in the last decade reaching $42.5 billion in 2021 and there are over 160 Indian companies present in LAC with investments exceeding $30 billion dollars,” said Karin Costa Vazquez, the Center’s executive director for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Studies.

According to her, “India has become a strategic partner for LAC in today’s geopolitics. This is particularly relevant for Brazil, where upcoming presidential elections and new foreign policy directions create opportunities to rethink relations with India.

Ms. Vazquez, who is also an associate professor at OP Jindal Global University (CALACS/JGU), speaking during a webinar “India-Latin America Dialogue: Expanding Horizons”, said: “Beyond the ties India and LAC share their perceptions of the world order and their role in it Argentina, Brazil, India and Mexico are members of the G20, an intergovernmental grouping that the India will preside for the first time in 2023.

With Brazil hosting the G20 and BRICS in 2024 and Argentina’s intention to join the BRICS, opportunities for policy coordination and economic cooperation arise.

“The webinar provides a platform for professionals from government, social sector and private sector to exchange views on how to develop India-LAC relations. We hope this platform will grow into a community around the issues we need to solve and advance collaboration between our countries,” she said.

The LAC region was the top recipient of the India-UN Development Partnership Fund in 2021 ($20 million, 26 projects) and the region is also a key supplier of minerals and hydrocarbons to India and a partner in the global energy transition with 12 participating countries. in the Solar Alliance.

According to Manuel Gonzalo, co-coordinator of the Argentinean Council on International Relations’ India-Asia Working Group, “Asia has emerged into global capitalism and India plays a central role in promoting America’s Indo-Pacific strategy. Sino-American global competition has implications for India’s position in the Indian Ocean. Last week Gerardo Morales [Argentinian politician] said that India must put the same money that China puts in the LAC. Soft power has a role, but finance speaks loudly.

During the round table, he made observations and raised questions such as: How to meet the challenge of two giants playing in the region? Fuels are extremely relevant in today’s environment. Today, LAC has a lithium bonanza. What is the interest of Indian companies for lithium? What is the role of Indian state-owned companies in the energy sector?

Daniela Castro, Secretary for Research, Industrial Policy and Defense Production, Ministry of Defense of Argentina, said: “There is an opportunity for STI cooperation to produce defense equipment. The work program should include: (i) technology transfer; (ii) the joint development and production of aircraft; and (iii) the development of a knowledge ecosystem in the defense industry.

“We have a very superficial trade agreement between India and Mercosur which only covers 250 products. Is there room to increase the products in such a way as to generate significant impacts on the trade program? The IBSA shifted from economic cooperation to cooperation in health, education, defense and social welfare What are the key issues that should be highlighted to get IBSA back on track? Do you see India playing a role in debt restructuring in the G20 How can we use the MDBs, especially the BND, more effectively to push a developing country agenda forward in the finance of the G20?” asked Ivan Oliveira, Advisor, Ministry of Economy of Brazil.

During the discussion, Raul Cano, Ambassador of Paraguay to the WTO, said that “Paraguay and India share the same values: democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Can India scale up its trade and investment in Paraguay to match that of Taiwan and (potentially) mainland China? Paraguay does not want to be just an exporter of commodities, but to add value to its exports. There is room for cooperation in the fields of electromobility, solar energy, automotive, pharmaceuticals, IT, petrochemicals, etc., both bilaterally and at Mercosur level.

Adding: “Paraguay wants to build the partnership mentioned by Ambassador Reddy, receive investments and create jobs. Emphasis should be placed on nearshoring to add value to raw materials produced in Paraguay and in the Mercosur market.

According to Gustavo Rojas, Program Officer, UN in Paraguay, “it would be important to expand the range of products and the level of tariff preferences mutually granted by India and Mercosur. The limited supply of Indo-South Atlantic sea routes should also be discussed and analyzed. Consideration could be given to including in this future agreement a multi-sector set of trade facilitation agreements, incorporating some of the innovative programs that both parties have promoted at the multilateral level of the WTO.

“The creation of specific chapters on the treatment of non-tariff measures, local currency payment systems and technical cooperation in the field of agriculture could be innovative measures to increase these flows in a sustainable way. It would be strategic to revive the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries through the entry into force of its latest protocol,” he said.

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“The Mercosur regional automotive agreement, currently under negotiation, and the CELAC health self-sufficiency plan, approved this year, offer interesting regulatory frameworks to consider the construction of an Indo-Latin productive integration strategy. American,” added Gustavo Rojas.

He suggested that IBSA should be revitalized and updated, with a renewed focus on key issues such as food, energy and health security and to make these actions feasible.

Responding to various concerns and questions, India’s Ambassador to Brazil, Suresh Reddy, spoke about various aspects of India in the region:

New partnerships in the region (Paraguay): According to the envoy, India does not seek to compete with China but to build a solid partnership with the region. “Eager to become your privileged partner in the sectors of the economy. How to create employment and promote the productive sector, not just finance. Commodities go through cycles, but if we have strong manufacturing etc, it can offer alternatives during down cycles.

He urged Paraguay to send a team to India to vet companies here and build relationships and also reach out to big Indian companies and give them the confidence to invest.

Ambassador Reddy also said that India is not in competition with USA/China or anyone else. “It offers a helping hand because we share the same values ​​and Indian businesses are big enough to have a positive impact on job creation and other legacies. We are looking to the future and it will be digital. This is where India can build a strong partnership.

He also talked about the economy: International Solar Alliance + shares knowledge and funding in partnerships with countries like Brazil and Argentina. On Mercosur, the envoy urged to understand what is happening in Argentina.

Australia and India recently signed a deal that was done in six months, he said, and that’s a case for LAC: eager to tap into the Indian market and a commodity producer. The same was true with the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius. Discussions are ongoing with the UK to conclude soon, and Canada and the EU (December 2023).

About the webinar

Recently, the Center for African, Latin American and Caribbean Studies at OP Jindal World University, FGV EAESP São Paulo School of Business Administration, and the Argentine Council on International Relations co-hosted the webinar – India-Latin America Dialogue: Broadening Horizons.

What was the agenda?

India’s Ambassador to Brazil, Suresh Reddy, and eminent experts and practitioners from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay discussed the main motivations and outcomes of the visit of Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S Jaishankar , Latin America and what this means for India’s foreign policy strategy towards the region. The experts also shared their views on India-LAC cooperation opportunities and how to promote them.

The webinar reaffirmed the need for knowledge networks around the common problems the region is trying to solve and to advance collaboration between our countries. He also called on Indian embassies in LAC to organize dialogues with the epistemic community to raise awareness and further develop these knowledge networks.

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