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Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The relationship between India and the European Union is an important one. Together, we enjoy an enormous potential for cooperation and growth. We are at the start of a promising process which should lead us to a closer relationship, beneficial to us all.
We have just been presented with the recommendations of the Business Summit for future cooperation within four key sectors. These are: financial services, biotechnology, textiles and power and energy.
These recommendations aim to enhance mutual trade and investment. They put the business sector at the forefront in developing closer ties between India and the EU. And I think they are right. Business is the key.
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We don’t have to go back so many years to find a situation which was completely different. The India/European relationship to a large extent revolved around development aid from Europe to India. Not so today, I glad to say.
Because, today, things have certainly changed - and for the better. Our relationship is now one of mutual interdependence. Characterized by mutual advantages and responsibility.
What has caused this change? Mainly increased global cooperation.
Economically it boils down to comparative advantages. Politically, it boils down to the end of the Cold War and the implementation of democracy and market economy in more and more countries.
I am happy to note, India, who has always been justifiably proud of its record of democracy, has developed into the largest democracy of them all. And, in economic terms, is growing stronger by the day.
We all share a belief that mutual cooperation leads to mutual benefit. It is this belief which forms the basis for this Summit.
The partnerships between companies and private business organisations are important, because these partnerships open the door to the partnership of governments and of nations.
And what of the governments? They are the bodies which can provide the overall political and economic stability and the right enabling environment for business.
That is why we need a partnership at two levels –governmental level and business level. You can’t have one without the other.
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India and the European Union both face global opportunities and challenges. We have a common interest in capitalising on these opportunities. Because that leads to more free trade and higher economic growth. And, in turn, increased welfare.
Of course, life is not without risks, and we have to deal with them. One risk is that the developing countries are marginalized in the world economy. That can be in nobody’s interest.
We must therefore join forces in dealing with the global challenges. And, increasingly, we are already doing so.
As far as the European Union is concerned, India is an important partner in a number of multilateral fora. And I believe that this business summit – and the visit to Denmark by Prime Minister Vajpayee to the EU/India Summit – are important elements in strengthening our mutual understanding.
One of the key areas of cooperation is world trade.
I have great expectations of the next WTO round. It will deal with issues of developing countries and the environment. Important issues for many political reasons. But these issues are also of great economic importance. Because fewer and lower trade barriers mean more trade and better business partnerships. And what does that mean for the developing nations? It means that they will have greater access to world markets and a greater chance of building a strong economy. A strong economy means that environmental protection is no longer just an expensive luxury.
So it is in our common interest that the players in the world markets have a level playing ground, controlled by common rules.
The WTO has come a long way in removing traditional trade barriers. But, if we are to keep world trade on the right track, we should open our markets even more.
With the ‘Everything-But-Arms’ initiative the EU has already taken an important step to enhance market access and free trade.
It is of utmost importance for our future cooperation that the present WTO-round is concluded at the deadline before the end of 2004. That will certainly be a move in the right direction.
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Today we can see that India is becoming increasingly important as a partner in bilateral trade, both with Denmark and the rest of the EU. We all recognise the huge potential. So let us look at the background to this positive situation.
First, the last ten years have seen truly impressive economic growth and development in India. We all recognise the reforms being carried out in India and its capability of emerging as a major economy in the 21st century.
Second, India is opening up. The business and investment climate for foreign business is becoming more favourable and more accessible. I hope and believe that these important reforms will continue.
Third, India has a lot to offer. An army of well-educated workers, a highly-developed R&D infrastructure, skilled scientists, technicians and management. In all, an excellent basis for business partnerships.
Trade between India and the European Union has grown by 150 per cent over the last 10 years. And today, the European Union accounts for around one quarter of India’s total trade. In fact, the European Union is India’s second largest source of investment.
And there is more to come. Trade and investments between the European Union and India have nowhere near reached their full potential.
We can see that in your recommendations from this Business Summit.
As governments, we will take a good look at your recommendations and, I am sure, consider them in a positive spirit.
Because we are all agreed: business partnerships between Indian and European companies, within the four sectors of financial services, biotechnology, textiles and power and energy, are of strategic importance. Such partnerships can only be of benefit in developing our economies.
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In closing, let me thank you all for all the work you have put in, in preparing this Third India-EU Business Summit.
Let this Summit mark our partnership. A partnership founded on sound business cooperation.
I encourage you all to keep up the good work. And I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.