Three R&D projects approved under India-Israel tech innovation fund

Source: Business Standards, 20 January 2022

Deliberating on widening the scope of India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F), the two countries have approved three joint R&D projects worth $5.5 million and suggested measures to create a broader India-Israel collaborative ecosystem.

The projects are ‘Centrally monitored IoT nano-sensors for molecular diagnostics in healthcare and screening applications’; ‘NoMoreMos’ – a mosquito control biological solution; and ‘IoT enabled satellite communication for real-time collection of agriculture and environment data across India’.

The eighth governing body of I4F rati􀀀ed the minutes of the seventh governing body meeting on Tuesday, which was followed by approval of the three joint R&D projects, a release from the Ministry of Science & Technology said on Wednesday.

The discussions took place in a virtual mode in the presence of o􀀁cials from the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), GITA and various industry partners. GITA is Global Innovation & Technology Alliance that is appointed to implement the I4F programme in India, while IIA is the implementing agency in Israel.

Acknowledging the contributions made by Israel, Secretary, DST, and India Co-Chair, S. Chandrasekhar, said: “So far, the priority areas have been agriculture, security and other important areas. There is further scope of increasing the quantum of projects

received, which calls for the need to conduct more online meetings among the startup eco-system of Israel and India.”

The members mutually decided on a strategy for the new phase of I4F 2.0, which also includes co-developing disruptive technologies in strategic sectors together with research performers involving academia as well.

Researcher Constantino Xavier considers, in an interview with Lusa, that Portugal’s “greatest challenge” is to think of “a long-term strategy for India”.

Source: The Portugal News, 17 January 2022

The Council of EU Chambers of Commerce in India

“I think the biggest challenge for Portugal will be to think of a long-term strategy for India, India is a giant country that will never take the initiative in deepening relations with Portugal as a priority”, said the researcher at the Center for the New Delhi’s Social and Economic Progress.

Despite the visit of Prime Minister Narenda Modi, in 2017, the various agreements and political visits, Constantino Xavier believes that “while Portugal does not think deeply about India and how India can really boost development, the economy, political, strategic, diplomatic interests, it will be very difficult for Portugal to play a role” in that country.

And to carry out this strategy, “it is necessary to think first about what the priorities are” and then direct economic diplomacy, guiding and preparing companies and the new generations of Portuguese entrepreneurs in this regard.

“To do this, it is necessary to get to know India, it is not about going to India just because India is gigantic and is a great economy or because it offers an alternative to China”, he says, defending that “it is necessary to find doors”.

However, for a small country like Portugal -, alongside India’s other strategic partners, which include Japan, the United States, the European Union, Germany, Italy, Singapore or Spain, it is “particularly important to focus on priority sectors and focus energies on specific areas”.

Constantino Xavier also defends the need for “experts” from India in Portugal, who work in the Indian economy, who understand the various Indian industries, from infrastructure, through telecommunications, to the education sector.

“All of this has to be studied and deepened and, for that, we have to think of a strategy, we have to think of the instruments, the necessary investments to encourage this study of India in Portugal”, concluded Constantino Xavier.

India and UK may start formal negotiations for FTA this month

Source: Economic Times, 03 January 2022

India and the UK are likely to launch formal negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) in the second week of this month followed by the first round of talks after a week, people aware of the development said.

“The idea is to launch the negotiations and the first round of talks this month,” an official told ET.

While a delegation comprising representatives of the UK’s trade ministry and businesses is to visit India to launch the negotiations, the two sides may consider doing a virtual launch amid rising Covid-19 cases, sources said.

The two sides plan to put in place an interim agreement by March 2022 followed by a comprehensive agreement. The interim trade pact would involve early tariff or market access concessions on certain key high priority products and services, they said.

Whisky, cars, vaccines, basmati rice, wool, yarn, instant coffee, and tea pre-mix top Indian industry’s list of products identified for duty cuts. India also wants enhanced mobility for its professionals.

The UK is keen on tariff reduction on Scotch whisky and a bilateral data adequacy agreement prior to the finalisation of a full-fledged free trade agreement.

Reduction or removal of tariffs on automotive products, and removal of barriers to trade in food and drink, services, and healthcare and medical device sectors are among the objectives of proposed agreement, sources said.

“The UK is keen to ink trade agreements after Brexit and India is a natural partner for it,” said the official cited above.

The India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco) would also meet during the launch of the negotiations.

India’s exports to the UK in FY21 were $8.15 billion (₹60,700 crore) and imports were $4.95 billion (₹36,850 crore). Last year, the two countries had agreed on an enhanced trade partnership with the goal to double bilateral trade to £50 billion, or about Rs 5 lakh crore, by 2030.

India, Taiwan holding talks on free-trade agreement, looking at setting up semiconductor hub

Source: Economic Times, 19 December 2021

India and Taiwan have started negotiations for a free-trade agreement and the setting up of a semiconductor manufacturing facility by a Taiwanese firm in India, in a significant step signalling their resolve to broad-base the overall bilateral economic engagement. If the move to set up the semiconductor manufacturing plant succeeds, then it will be the second such facility to be set up by a Taiwanese company in a foreign country after a similar hub in the United States, people familiar with the development said.

The Indian government has already proposed a number of sites for the facility and one of Taiwan’s leading semiconductor producers, including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and the United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), may implement the mega project, they said.

The move to set up the facility comes amid increasing demands for chips in India by automakers and technology companies, among others, when there is a global shortage of chips.

The people said the proposal to set up the semiconductor hub is largely driven by the strategic significance of the ties between India and Taiwan, rather than the commercial aspect of it.

“The semiconductor plant in the US was set up in the reflection of the close strategic ties between the two sides. It will be the same in India’s case as well,” said one of the people cited above.

The government on Wednesday unveiled a plan to provide incentives worth Rs 76,000 crore to encourage the setting up of semiconductor design, manufacturing and display fabrication (fab) units with a larger goal of making India a global electronics production hub.

In sync with their keenness to expand economic engagement, India and Taiwan have already held two rounds of talks for firming up a free-trade agreement as well as a bilateral investment agreement to boost trade ties, the people said.

India has been promoting its ties with Taiwan in the areas of trade, investment, tourism, culture, education and people-to-people exchanges.

The cooperation in the areas of trade, investment and industry between the two countries has been on an upswing in the last few years.

The volume of bilateral trade has grown nearly six-fold from USD 1.19 billion in 2001 to almost USD 7.05 billion in 2018 and India ranks as Taiwan’s 14th largest export destination and 18th largest source of imports, according to official data.

By the end of 2018, around 106 Taiwanese companies were operating in India, with the total investment amounting to USD 1.5 billion in the fields of information and communication technology, medical devices, automobile components, machinery, steel, electronics, construction, engineering and financial services.

The two sides have also set up teams for further expansion of ties in education as well as skill development training.

At present, an estimated 2,800 Indian students are studying in Taiwan.

India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but both sides have trade and people-to-people ties.

In 1995, New Delhi set up the India-Taipei Association (ITA) in Taipei to promote interactions between the two sides and facilitate business, tourism and cultural exchanges.

The ITA has also been authorised to provide all consular and passport services.

In the same year, Taiwan too established the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in Delhi.

India-Israel bilateral trade likely to reach $4 bn this year

Source: Financial Express, 15 December 2021

The trade between India and Israel has been strong and is likely to reach USD 4 billion in 2021, Sagi Itcher Economic Consul, Head of Economic and Trade Mission, Israel, said.

“For 2020, it (bilateral trade between the two countries) was almost USD 3.4 billion. In 2021, I am assuming it will be around USD 4 billion,” Itcher said on Wednesday.

He, however, said the exact number will be known once the year ends.

Itcher was speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by the Ministry of Economy and Industry, Foreign Trade Administration and Economic and Trade Mission, Israel and CII.

According to him, both the countries would like to see the trade relationship evolve and grow even bigger, and there is a lot of potential for it.

One of the areas where the two countries can strengthen cooperation is financial technology, Itcher noted.

He said India has a huge number of digital payments and there is an also insurance industry, which is evolving every day.

“Insurance companies need to manage a lot of data and Israel companies can come very handy on that.” The traditional sectors where both the countries are working together include cyber security, water, agriculture, medical device and medical care.

Going forward, the two countries can jointly work on cleantech, renewal energy and food tech, he said.

The volume of India’s investments into Israel is very low, and there is a lot of scope for improvement, Itcher added.

He said Israel is strong on the technology front and suggested that Indian companies can adopt them.

Regular India-US engagements under Trade Policy Forum will help removing barriers to trade: USIBC

Source: Financial Express, 24 November 2021

A regular engagement between India and the United States under the bilateral Trade Policy Forum mechanism will help remove barriers to trade, facilitate higher levels of investment and increase two-way trade in goods and services, the US India Business Council said Tuesday.

“We’re encouraged with positive statements coming from both sides and are certain regular engagements under the Forum will help removing barriers to trade, facilitate higher levels of investment and increase two-way trade in goods and services,” the USIBC said.

In a statement, the USIBC congratulated Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai for a successful reconvening of the US-India Trade Policy Forum and said that they are glad to see the robust agenda set forth by the leaders.

“Today’s meeting also confirms the widespread benefit of U.S.-India commercial partnership and the importance of innovation and investment, reaffirming the importance of collaboration on the Quad, climate, health, and labor issues,” the council said.

“We look forward to playing a significant role in guiding and advancing these issues on behalf of the USIBC membership and working in tandem with both governments,” it said.

India, US to talk trade forum revival, IPR

Source: Economic Times, 22 November 2021

India and the US are likely to revive the Trade Policy Forum, discuss issues related to intellectual property rights (IPR) and market access for agricultural goods such as cherries, pomegranates and pecans this week during United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s visit.

Tai’s two-day visit, starting Monday, comes ahead of a crucial ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) next week.

“Some long standing bilateral agricultural issues could be discussed,” said an official. “Our wish list includes market access for table grapes and pomegranate arils while the US wants duty cuts on certain products such as pecans, walnuts and almonds.” India’s goods exports to the US in FY21 were $51.6 billion while imports were $28.8 billion.

The commerce and industry ministry has already sought comments and suggestions from industry on their concerns and difficulties such as filing, registration, enforcement or commercialisation of IP rights in the US, which can be taken up in the forum.

As per another source, Tai will meet commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and some other senior ministers during her visit, the first as US’ chief trade negotiator.

Earlier this month, Tai and Goyal met virtually, wherein they agreed to take a comprehensive look at ways to expand trade relationship, ensure success of the Trade Policy Forum and find meaningful outcomes at the ministerial.

In agriculture, the US wants India to allow import of certain American products such as cherries, alfalfa hay and pork. It also wants India to accept the dairy export certificate agreed upon in 2020. In return, India is hopeful of simplified procedures for export of its mangoes, grapes and pomegranate arils, and market access for bovine meat.

The two sides have decided to hold the Trade Policy Forum after four years, and key bilateral trade issues – especially the ones related to IPRs – are expected to be taken up.

The timing of Tai’s visit is important as Washington has partially supported the India-South Africa proposal on waiver of some provisions of copyrights, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information in the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19. It is now sponsored by 64 WTO members. WTO wants to reach an agreement on the global response to the pandemic and India wants the waiver proposal to be part of the response.

Russia’s ASEAN & Far East Asia outreach complements India’s vision

Source: Economic Times, 16 November 2021

Russia is attempting to expand its footprint in Southeast Asia through its engagements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and collaboration with India can be a win-win situation for all sides given the fact that ASEAN is part of New Delhi’s extended neighbourhood.

Russia recently adopted a five-year roadmap focused on trade and investment cooperation, the digital economy and sustainable development with the ASEAN. At the Sixth Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, Moscow’s old partner in the region Vietnam expressed interest to be a bridge to connect ASEAN to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. Singapore and Vietnam free trade agreements with the Eurasian Economic Union could contribute to future economic growth.

Sputnik vaccine is giving added incentive to ASEAN states to widen ties with Russia. Recently a detachment of ships and submarines had sailed into the Indian Ocean en route to a permanent deployment as part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. “Russia sees itself as a great power,” according to Ian Storey, with the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

Russia’s growing stakes in the region speaks for itself. “…This is reflected in its new partnerships with ASEAN, SAARC, African and Gulf countries, anchored in its weapons and natural resources diplomacy. The jurisdiction of its Pacific Fleet extends from Vladivostok right up to the Persian Gulf, effectively highlighting Russia practising an Indo-Pacific strategy,” writes Rajorshi Roy, a research analyst with the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MPIDSA).

“This nascent network of new relationships could help fulfil Russia’s long-cherished dream of gaining access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean,” Roy wrote in his paper titled Indo-Pacific: A Strategic Opportunity for Russia?

Moscow has expanded its partnership with the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Russia will also gain from the multipolarity and multilateralism in the ASEAN region. Russia remains as much an Asian power as it is a European one with 2/3rds of its territory and 15 per cent of its population based in Asia, Roy argued in his paper.

Russia’s vision from Lisbon to Jakarta complement’s India’s outreach in SE Asia and Far East Asia and contribute to India’s Act Far East Policy that involves New Delhi’s role and investment in the resource rich Russian Far East. “A framework of India-Russia strategic cooperation in this space already exists, as outlined by Prime Minister Modi in the seminal ‘Act Far East’ policy launched in Vladivostok in 2019.This was seen as the lynchpin of harmonising the two countries strategic outlook,” wrote Roy in his paper.

PM Narendra Modi’s message at the last EEF and Oil Minister Hardeep Puri’s presence in the EEF are indication of India’s growing interest in the region that can be further consolidated through revival of Chennai-Vladivostok maritime link. India has huge stakes in the energy assets in the Russian Far East. The India-Japan-Russia trilateral could further contribute to bring balance to the region.

Modi in his message at the EEF 2021, highlighted the historical and civilisational significance of ‘Sangam’. He described Vladivostmok a true ‘Sangam’ of Eurasia and the Pacific and by doing so he emphasised the geo-strategic location of the region in terms of connectivity. In a recent paper for MPIDSA titled ‘Prospects for India–Russia Cooperation in the Arctic’ Bipandeep Sharma and Dr Uttam Kumar Sinha writes, “The opening up of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) due to Arctic sea-ice melt is potentially making the region an important hub for shipping between Europe and Asia. Simultaneously, the Arctic is opening new opportunities for hydrocarbons and other potential resources that lie unexplored beneath its ice. Russia maintains a dominant position in the Arctic and considers the region as its strategic backyard.”

The Arctic, in recent times, has presented a new front of opportunities and cooperation between India and Russia. “In fact, when Prime Minister Modi visited Vladivostok in September 2019 for the 20th India–Russia Annual Summit, the Arctic was emphasised for the first time. The Joint Statement mentioned, “India looks forward to cooperate with Russia in the Arctic, India has been following the development in the Arctic region with interest and is also ready to play a significant role in the Arctic Council,” writes Sharma and Sinha.

“Apart from hydrocarbons, in particular natural gas, the Barents area in the Arctic region presents opportunities for mineral development as well. The Barents has some of the best known mineral deposits and some of the world’s best deep harbours from which to transport the products. The region is rich in iron-ore and the demand for steel will be critical to India’s growing economy. Russia’s oil and gas development projects in the Arctic are being given high priority. The Russian Arctic approximately holds between 3 and 25 per cent of the world’s total oil and gas resources,” Sharma and Sinha pointed out.

The NSR offers the shortest route between East Asian and Western European ports. It is estimated that the maritime distance from Shanghai to Rotterdam via NSR will be 30 per cent shorter vis-à-vis the Suez Canal route thereby cutting time by 10–12 days. Likewise, the distance from Yokohama to Rotterdam will be 40 per cent shorter.

USTR to visit India this month; countries to discuss trade, investment issues

Source: Economic Times, 14 November 2021

India and the US will discuss ways to promote trade and investments besides increasing cooperation in agriculture sector and intellectual property rights during a meeting this month between US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, an official said. The two-day meeting will begin from November 22.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) is visiting India to revive the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), which has not met for the last four years, the official said.

The meeting is also important as the 12th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is scheduled from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva. Both India and the US are members of the 164-member multilateral organisation which deals with global exports and imports.

The TPF is a premier forum to resolve trade and investment issues between India and the US. It has five focus groups: Agriculture, Investment, Innovation and Creativity (intellectual property rights), Services, and Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers.

“Both sides would discuss ways to further boost bilateral trade and investments,” the official added.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 80.5 billion in 2020-21. India has received USD 13. 8 billion foreign direct investment from the US during 2020-21.

India-UAE FTA talks: Duty relief likely for job-intensive sectors

Source: Financial Express, 25 October 2021

Both the sides started formal negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), as the FTA is formally called, in New Delhi from September 23. They aim to wrap up talks by December and sign a deal by March 2022.

India is in talks with its third-largest export destination, the UAE, for duty-free market access in products ranging from gems & jewellery and textiles & garments to certain engineering goods like steel under a proposed free trade agreement (FTA), sources told FE. It would be the first FTA to be signed by India in just over a decade.

To prevent any misuse of the FTA benefits and curb potential illegal inflows of Chinese goods through a key transit hub like Dubai, New Delhi will likely insist on strict rules of origin. It may either stipulate a 35% value addition at the UAE for all products to be eligible for duty concession under the FTA or impose similar conditions on select products where it sees the maximum scope for abuse, said one of the sources.

Both the sides started formal negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), as the FTA is formally called, in New Delhi from September 23. They aim to wrap up talks by December and sign a deal by March 2022.

About 87% of the products that the UAE imports are currently taxed at 5%, while 11% attract zero duty; the rest see higher duty incidence or are in the prohibited or special lists of goods, said another source. While it slaps a 5% duty on textiles & garments and jewellery, certain steel products are taxed at 10%. These three segments alone made up for 34% of India’s $16.7-billion exports to the UAE last fiscal and 43% in the pre-pandemic year of FY20.

The UAE is not keen on scrapping duties on all engineering goods but it may allow tax-free imports of certain steel products.

Abu Dhabi’s applied tariff (simple average for most-favoured nations) was 4.6% in 2020, much lower than New Delhi’s 15%. The goods that are in the high-tax brackets in the UAE include alcohol (50%) and tobacco (100%). Its trade-weighted average tariff (total customs revenue as percentage of overall import value) was 3.4% in 2019, against India’s 7%. So, New Delhi’s tariff concession will be more substantial than Abu Dhabi’s.

The FTA is expected to raise bilateral merchandise trade to $100 billion in five years following the signing of the pact from about $43 billion in FY21. It also aims to more than double bilateral services trade to $15 billion during this period.

The negotiations with the UAE are a part of India’s broader strategy to forge “fair and balanced” trade agreements with key economies and revamp existing pacts to boost trade. The move gained traction after India pulled out of the China-dominated RCEP talks in November 2019. Balanced FTAs will also enable the country to achieve sustained growth rates in exports in the coming years. Already, India has set an ambitious merchandise export target of $400 billion for FY22, against $291 billion in FY21.

The UAE was India’s second-biggest goods export market until FY20, behind only the US, before China pipped it in FY21 when the pandemic caused severe trade disruptions.

The UAE is the eighth-largest investor in India, having invested $11 billion between April 2000 and March 2021, while investment by Indian firms in the UAE is estimated to be as high as $85 billion during this period.

India’s major exports to the UAE include petroleum products, precious metals, stones, gems and jewellery, textiles and garments, food items, engineering goods and chemicals. Its main imports from the UAE include petroleum and petroleum products, precious metals, stones, gems and jewellery, minerals, chemicals and wood and wood products.