India offers Africa trade privilages

7 April 2008

India is to offer trade privileges to countries on the African continent, especially those least developed nations, with the Asian economic giant stating that market access was vital in ensuring the development of international trade.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his government would offer a duty-free tariff preference scheme for the least developed countries around the world to spur trade and commerce.

“The objective of our partnership is to co-operate with all African countries, within the limits of our capacities and capabilities, in their efforts towards achieving economic vibrancy, peace, stability and self-reliance,” he said in his opening address at the two-day India-Africa Forum summit in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“Towards this end, it is our intention to become a close partner in Africa’s resurgence.”

Under the scheme, India will unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports from all 50 least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa.

Singh explained that the scheme would cover 94% of India’s total tariff lines, and would offer preferential market access on tariff lines that comprised almost 93% of the global exports of all least developed countries.

Some of the products of immediate interest to Africa that are covered include cotton, cocoa, aluminium ore, cashew nuts and ready-made garments.

Singh said India would also undertake the development of critical projects over the next five to six years, against grants in excess of US$500-million.

He said that India would also strengthen local capacity by creating regional and pan-African institutions of higher education, especially in sciences, information technology (IT) and vocational education; invest in research and development in renewable forms of energy; and agricultural development.

“We will enhance opportunities for African students to pursue higher studies in India,” he added. “As an immediate measure, we propose to double our long-term scholarships for undergraduates, post graduates and higher courses and increase the number of training slots under our technical assistance programme from 1 100 to 1 600 every year.”

Leaders of 14 African countries were in attendance to explore deeper trade relations with India, which is now the world’s fourth largest economy. Africa-India trade has surged significantly, from $5.5-billion in 2002 to $30-billion last year.

Source: BuaNews and NNN