Monday, December 20, 2010

Wen Jiabao In India

In the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao's visit to India, there was an emphasis on developing closer business ties with India in different areas, which includes banking, finance and green technologies.The current imbalances are likely to persist as Indian exports are less competitive in Chinese Markets. Wen Jiabao’s visit facilitated closer integration of banking and financial sectors of the two economies. Crude oil imports played a role in enlarging the trade deficit,but they were not imported from China.However, both sides have committed to correcting the imbalance, writes Amitendu Palit.


The Chinese Premier’s recent visit to India emphasised on developing closer business ties with India in different areas. Several agreements were signed, including in banking and finance and green technologies. The paper argues that despite both countries deciding to increase bilateral trade and addressing the current imbalance, the latter might persist due to low competitiveness of Indian exports in the Chinese market and the Indian industry’s inability to compete with Chinese imports.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India five years and eight months after his last visit in April 2005. Much has changed during these years. No change, however, has been as remarkable as the rapid acceleration in economic ties between China and India. Between the Premier’s two visits, Sino-Indian merchandise trade has increased from US$12.7 billion (2004-05) to US$42.4 billion (2009-10).2 Overall trade figures will be even larger by including bilateral services trade, on which, unfortunately, no official estimates are available. The almost fourfold increase in trade during the last five years has led to China becoming India’s largest trade partner and India becoming one of China’s major trade partners.


And business it was that dominated the visit. Both countries decided to lift bilateral trade to US$100 billion by 2015.3 Going by the rate at which bilateral trade has been increasing in recent years, the target might well be achieved before the chosen date. Both countries also decided to work together in infrastructure, telecommunications, investment, finance, information technology and environmental protection for achieving ‘win-win’ outcomes. Forty- nine Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed between Chinese and Indian business entities during the visit. Two key ones among these were between the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and China Chamber of Commerce (CCC), and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) respectively.


The Chinese Premier’s visit will be remembered for facilitating closer integration of banking and financial sectors of the two economies. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – one of the largest global lenders by market value – has applied for setting up branches in India, while other leading Chinese banks such as Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China are expected to do so in the future.5 Existing Indian banks in China [eg. State Bank of India (SBI)] are likely to expand operations.

Contribution of crude oil imports in enlarging the trade deficit, hardly any of which are imported from China. Nonetheless, both sides have committed to correcting the imbalance.

The key to balanced trade is increasing India's exports. China has agreed to encourage Indian agricultural, pharmaceutical and service exports in its domestic market. These and other Indian exports will increase if non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in China's domestic market come down and they also become more competitive. While NTBs can probably be reduced by negotiating with the Chinese government, competitiveness of Indian exports in the Chinese market vis-à-vis similar exports from Southeast Asia and other competing countries cannot be increased in the same manner. Thus despite reduction in NTBs, Indian exports might not experience substantial increase.

On the other hand, Indian industry must also note that till now they have successfully lobbied against Chinese imports and precipitated anti-dumping measures largely because China is yet to be treated as a 'market' economy by the WTO. This will, however, change from 2016. It is important for the Indian industry to reconcile to the fact that Chinese imports will be as much a part of the Indian market as they are in most other markets of the world. Instead of clamouring for protection and lobbying against Chinese imports, it is more sensible to lobby for domestic reforms that will reduce production and operational costs, and make Indian exports more efficient and competitive.

As India struggles to analyse the pluses and minuses from the Chinese Premier's visit, it is clear that China wants to do business with India. Unresolved borders cannot and should not hold back two of the world's largest economies from exploiting mutual synergies. That is the message emanating from Premier Wen's visit. Will India play ball?

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