Focus India-LAC - September 2016

Ms Delcy Rodriguez, Foreign Minister of Venezuela visited Delhi and met External Affairs Minsiter Ms Sushma Swaraj to hand over the invitation to the XVII NAM Summit being held in Venezuela on 17-18 September, 2016. She was accompanied by the Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum, Mr Eulogio del Pino who met Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan.


The Indian side reiterated its long-standing proposal for an oil-for-export mechanism for payment of pending dues of Indian companies, notably $ 600 million of ONGC’s dividends from its investments in Venezuela. India imported almost 24 million tons of crude – around 12 percent of its total – from Venezuela in 2015-16. ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) has a 40 percent stake in the San Cristobal oilfield, currently producing 28,000 barrels per day, down from 38,000 bpd 2 years ago. A consortium of OVL, Indian Oil, and Oil India has 18 percent stake in the gigantic Carabobo field currently producing 16,000 bpd, expected to rise to 90,000 bpd by 2017, with potential of up to 400,000 bpd. Cash-strapped Venezuela has to come up with funds to finance its share of capital expenditure to realise the full potential of these projects.


Commerce Secretary Ms. Rita Teaotia visited Mexico 13-15 July for the Fourth High Level Group on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation. During the visit FICCI and Telecom Equipment and Services Promotion Council (TEPC) organised seminars on India-Mexico Investment opportunities and Buyer-Sellers Meets in Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Though a free trade agreement with Mexico is not on the horizon, it is an increasingly important economic and commercial partner. India’s exports to Mexico at $ 2.865 billion in 2015-16, with imports at $2.283 billion, left India with a trade surplus for the first time in several years. There are over 40 Indian companies active in Mexico and 13 Mexican companies in India. Mexico’s hydrocarbons sector has recently opened up to foreign investment.


A Science and Technology delegation from India visited Mexico City for the VI Mexico India Joint Committee Meeting on Science & Technology and had a very useful discussion with Mexican officials on cooperation from 18-19th July 2016. The Mexicans have expressed interest in several sectors including outer space.


In July, the Ministry of Commerce and the secretariat of Mercosur exchanged lists of approximately 3000 tariff lines each for a possible expansion of the existing preferential tariff agreement (PTA) signed in 2004, effective since June 2009. The four original members of Mercosur – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – should commence formal discussions on further negotiations in the near future.


India’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean (minus Mexico) amounted to $ 38.48 billion in 2014-15. Of this, Mercosur accounted for $ 14.24 billion, or 37 percent. The balance was favourable for Brazil and Argentina, largely due to massive imports of crude and edible oil respectively. In 2015-16, trade with Mercosur fell to around $10 billion, reflecting the fall in crude prices and in diesel exports by India.


On 17 July, Essel Propack inaugurated a new plant in Cali, Colombia to manufacture 180 million tubes per year. Part of the USD 2.4 billion Essel Group, Essel Propack is a specialty packaging firm, manufacturing laminated plastic tubes catering to the FMCG and pharma industries. Located in a special economic zone, the facility will also cater to the adjacent Andean markets of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile.


French construction company Bouygues has 200 Indian engineers and technicians in hotel construction projects in Cuba (http://in.reuters.com/article/cuba-economy-labor-idINKCN1011S5) and plans to employ more. Recent Cuban foreign investment laws (2014) contain "special regulations" concerning foreign workers under "exceptional circumstances." The Indian workers, who get around 1500 Euros a month, will train local tradesmen in Cuba in addition to working directly on the projects themselves.

 

September 7, 2016

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About the Author

Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1978. He retired in February 2012. During his career, he was accredited as Ambassador in seven Latin American countries, resident in Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, concurrent in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and was Consul General in Sao Paulo. He served abroad in three Continents – Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia), Europe (Spain and Czech Republic) and Latin America.

In the Ministry of External Affairs, he served in the Divisions dealing with Administration; West Asia and North Africa; US and Canada; and had a brief stint at the United Nations.

Ambassador Bhojwani also served as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Mr P.V.Narasimha Rao for two years from 1994 to 1996, and as Special Assistant to the Minister of State for External Affairs and for Science and Technology, Mr K.R.Narayanan, from 1985 till 1988.

He writes extensively on Latin America and its relations with India. He has written a book published in 2015 titled ‘Latin America, the Caribbean and India: Promise and Challenge’.

He is currently a Consultant for Latin America and the Caribbean through his firm LATINDIA (www.latindia.in)

Ambassador Bhojwani also serves as Independent Director on the Board of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., one of the largest state oil and gas companies of India.

Since January 2017 he has been Country Manager and Director, Magotteaux Industries Pvt. Ltd.

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