India open for stronger trade relations with EU: Anurag Thakur

Source:  Economic times of India, Apr 08, 2021

Union minister Anurag Singh Thakur on Thursday said India is open for stronger trade and investment with the European Union (EU). Portugal’s Minister of State for Internationalization Eurico Brilhante Dias called on Thakur ahead of the 5th Joint Economic Commission India-Portugal meeting in Delhi.

The meeting would discuss the ongoing negotiation process of trade and investment agreements between India and the EU, the Finance Ministry said in a series of tweets.

“Indian and Portuguese Prime Ministers share a special bond and both nations have strong ties. India welcomes and is open for trade and investment with the EU,” Thakur, the Minister of State for Finance, said.

Portugal is a member of the EU that comprises 27 nations.

The negotiations between India and the EU on a free trade agreement have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector. The negotiations were launched in June 2007.

Biocon partners with Libbs Farmaceutica to launch generic drugs in Brazil

Source: Business Standard, Mar 30, 2021

New Delhi: Biotechnology major Biocon on Monday said its subsidiary has joined hands with Libbs Farmaceutica to launch generic drugs in Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous country.

Biocon Pharma, a unit of the company, has tied up with Brazil-based Libbs Farmaceutica to introduce generic formulations in the Latin American country, Biocon Ltd said in a statement.

This partnership, which marks the entry of Biocon’s generic formulations into Latin America, builds upon a successful association with Libbs, which began in 2017 to launch biosimilar Trastuzumab in Brazil, it added.

As part of the out-licensing deal with Libbs, Biocon Pharma will be responsible for drug development and manufacturing, while Libbs will leverage its deep expertise and reach in Brazil to import, distribute and market, subject to approvals from the Brazilian health regulatory agency, ANVISA.

“Expanding our association with Libbs Farmaceutica, a trusted partner, to our generic formulations, will help us establish a firm footing in Latin America, starting with Brazil,” Biocon Ltd Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Siddharth Mittal said.

The company remains committed to expanding its global presence with high quality and affordable medicines and invest in strengthening capabilities that enables it to serve patients globally, he added.

Libbs Executive President Alcebades de Mendona Athayde Junior said the partnership that is going to make a difference in patients’ lives. “We started with Biocon Biologics years ago, and we were very successful: our Trastuzumab became a leader in the private market, a milestone for our company. We will now continue making a difference in people’s lives with Biocon, with the goal to expand access to quality, safe and effective treatments to our patients,” he added.

India, US agree to work towards resolving key bilateral trade issues

Source: Business Standard, Mar 27, 2021

New Delhi: India and the United States will look at ways to expand its trade relations and cooperate on pending bilateral issues, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said soon after meeting Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.

“Then I met with Minister Piyush Goyal. We agreed to revitalize engagement through the US-India Trade Policy Forum, find ways to expand our trade relationship, and cooperate on a broad set of issues,” Tai said in a tweet.

Tai, who was confirmed as a top US trade negotiator last week, discussed crucial issues with Goyal over a phone call on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Goyal on Friday said that trade deals should never be done in a hurry and should not be looked at only as tools of diplomacy. Therefore, India is extremely cautious in its approach to trade deals and wants to ensure reciprocity in trade deals.

“I’m glad to share with you that only I think yesterday, I had my first engagement with my counterpart in the US, Miss Katherine Tai… We hit it off extremely well yesterday in our very first engagement, and we are looking forward to quickly ramp up our discussions,” he said at the India Economic Conclave.

“Having said that we are looking at expanding our trade ties through removal of non trade barriers through better mutual recognition agreements through other means to expand both the trade in goods and services,” he added.

In the past, India had extensive discussions with the US on a mini trade deal. However, that didn’t get through. “Of course, the US, new administration has broadly announced that they are not looking at free trade agreements in the near future. Probably they are also looking at the way India looks at it that doing these things in a hurry, is not always advisable,” he said.

India, Chile agree to deepen bilateral relations post Covid-19 pandemic

Source: Business Standard, Mar 19, 2021

New Delhi: India and Chile on Friday agreed to deepen bilateral relations post the COVID-19 pandemic, including the second expansion of the India-Chile Preferential Trade Agreement, a statement issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

During a telephonic conversation between President Ram Nath Kovind and Sebastian Piera Echnique, the President of the Republic of Chile, the two countries resolved to maintain the momentum in bilateral relationship in diverse areas.

Kovind recalled his visit to the South American country in 2019 and thanked Piera for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation during the visit.

The two leaders discussed the follow-up action to the visit and agreed to deepen bilateral relations post the COVID-19 pandemic, including the second expansion of the India-Chile Preferential Trade Agreement, the statement said.

Piera expressed his continued wish to visit India, it added.

Recognising the tremendous potential of India-Chile ties, especially in the trade and commerce sector, both sides resolved to maintain the momentum in bilateral relationship in diverse areas, the statement said. Kovind also conveyed to Piera his best wishes for the health and well-being of the people of Chile.

Indian Oil Corporation enters into joint venture with Israeli firm Phinergy

Source: Business Standard, Mar 18, 2021

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on Wednesday entered into a collaboration with Phinergy, an Israeli start-up company specialising in hybrid lithium-ion and aluminium-air/zinc-air battery systems, to form IOC Phinergy Private Limited.

According to a press release, the collaboration took place in the presence of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Israel Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

The joint venture will manufacture Aluminum-Air systems in India to boost India’s flagship programme – “Make in India” and recycle used Aluminum to strengthen India’s energy security.

In a significant boost to India’s pursuit of e-mobility, two of the leading Automotive manufacturers in India- Maruti Suzuki and Ashok Leyland signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the newly incorporated JV IOC Phinergy Limited, said the release.

Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said that the fruition of the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, inter alia, resulted in this Joint Venture being launched today. He said that the joint venture will help India in its journey towards clean, sustainable, affordable, safe, and long-lasting energy options and facilitate much faster adoption of e-Vehicles in the country.

“Our energy sector will be growth-centric, industry-friendly, and environment conscious. We have the onerous task of ensuring ample access to energy to improve the lives of Indians coupled with the need to have a smaller carbon footprint. In this scenario, this technology to develop indigenous batteries using locally available Aluminum fits into the energy vision of India as espoused by Prime Minister Modi, wherein he has given a clear call for increasing the contribution of electricity to decarbonise mobility,” he said.

The minister further said that based on domestically available Aluminum, the joint venture plans to manufacture Aluminum-Air systems in India, which will provide a boost to India’s flagship programme – Make in India and at the same time, recycling of used Aluminum will help India in becoming “Aatmanirbhar” for energy requirements.

He expressed the happiness that apart from Maruti Suzuki, leading automobile industry representatives such as Ashok Leyland and Mahindra Electric are part of the validation of the technology, while urging the Indian industry, primarily the automotive manufacturers, to extend all necessary support to the joint venture for commercializing the Aluminum-Air technology.

Steinitz also lauded the initiative, saying that this is indicative of increasingly close cooperation between the two countries.

Tarun Kapoor, Secretary, MoP & NG, said that India’s energy demand is going to increase at a faster pace compared to the world, and the country is looking for a breakthrough in storage technology-batteries that are compact, cheaper, lighter and have higher energy density. He described today’s initiative as pathbreaking, according to the release.

“With one of the most extensive customer interfaces in the country, IndianOil has been working continuously to improve customer’s experience and provide solutions for all kinds of energy needs. The JV between IndianOil and Phinergy for commercializing Aluminum-Air technology is an important initiative towards technology-driven Energy Transition. Al-Air technology will help us overcome most of the current challenges for e-Vehicles and address most of the potential customers’ pain-points, including range anxiety, higher cost of purchase, and safety issues. This technology will also boost India’s existing aluminium industry and help the nation become Self-reliant in the energy field and promote the ‘Make in India’ drive,” said IndianOil chairman SM Vaidya. Dr SSV Ramakumar, Director (R & D) spoke about the game the changing technology of metal-air battery which would define a new e-mobility paradigm in the Indian context.

Renewable deals get powered up

Source: LiveMint.com, Mar 03, 2021

MUMBAI : Goldman Sachs-backed ReNew Power’s successful attempt at a public listing in the US has rekindled hopes among clean energy firms of a brighter future ahead after the covid-induced turbulence of last year.

Deal activity in the renewable energy space grounded to a near halt as developers struggled to complete projects due to strict curbs placed since March 2020 to contain the pandemic while investors turned wary.

While the first three months of 2020 saw eight merger and acquisition deals worth $1.2 billion, the figure plunged to just $234 million across 10 transactions for the rest of the year, showed data from financial market data provider Refinitiv.

With covid crimping plans by clean energy firms to raise capital from the public markets through either debt or equity, scheduled launches of initial public offers and infrastructure investment trusts did not materialize.

Deal activity in the clean energy space was in sharp contrast with the overall M&A activity in India in 2020, which climbed 33% to $36.9 billion. A total of 18 companies raised $6.5 billion via public equity offerings, marking a 2.5 times rise from 2019.

Despite the clean energy industry achieving priority status under government regulations, new projects took time for completion while distribution companies were slow to pay bills to developers. Unable to cope with these challenges, some companies surrendered projects won through public auctions while others were not able to sign power purchase agreements with buyers. All these factors contributed to the overall investment slowdown in the sector.

The tide, however, seems to be turning. Earlier in February, ReNew announced a merger with Nasdaq-listed special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) RMG Acquisition Corp. II (RMG II) at an enterprise value of around $8 billion.

ReNew completed the listing after unsuccessful attempts to go public in India and plans to launch an infrastructure investment trust. Using the SPAC route helps companies bypass the regulatory tedium of a public listing. In the coming weeks, ReNew is also expected to close a ₹1,500 crore deal to sell 300 megawatts of wind farms to UK government-backed Ayana Renewable.

“ReNew’s Spac listing has been hugely positive for the sector and reaffirms global investors continued interest in the Indian renewable energy space,” Prateek Jhawar, director and head of infrastructure and real assets investment banking at Avendus Capital, told Mint. “Last year due to covid, travel restrictions had delayed deal closure but it is expected to pick pace this year. Many global strategic players have started looking at India with renewed interest and the SPAC listing has opened newer avenues for Indian renewable companies to raise capital.”

Ease of doing business: MCA signs MoU with CBIC for data exchange

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 25, 2021

New Delhi: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for data exchange. The MoU was signed by Manoj Pandey, Joint Secretary, MCA, and BB Gupta, ADG, CBIC, in the presence of Rajesh Verma, Secretary, MCA, and M Ajit Kumar, Chairman, CBIC.

The MoU is in line with the vision of MCA and CBIC to harness data capabilities to ensure effective enforcement. Both the organisations will benefit from access to each other’s databases which include details of import-export transactions and consolidated financial statements of companies registered in the country.

The arrangement gains significance in light of development of MCA21 Version 3 which will utilise technology for enhancing ease of doing business in India and improve the regulatory enforcement and similar steps by CBIC like the launch of ADVAIT (Advanced Analytics in Indirect Taxation), a 360-degree taxpayer profiling tool.

AI/ML, data analytics will play a critical role in achieving this synergy, an official release said.

The MoU will facilitate the sharing of data and information between MCA and CBIC on an automatic and regular basis. It will enable sharing of specific information such as details of Bill of Entry (Imports), Shipping Bill (Exports) Summary from CBIC and financial statements filed with the Registrar by corporates, returns of allotment of shares. The MoU will ensure that both MCA and CBIC have seamless linkage for regulatory purposes. In addition to regular exchange of data, MCA and CBIC will also exchange with each other, on request, any information available in their respective databases, for the purpose of carrying out scrutiny, inspection, investigation and prosecution.

Technology and data will play a critical role going forward in fulfilling the Government’s vision of minimum government, maximum governance and both MCA and CBIC are well placed to fulfill this vision, the release added. A Data Exchange Steering Group also has been constituted for the initiative, which will meet periodically to review the data exchange status and take steps to further improve the effectiveness of the data sharing mechanism.

India, World Bank sign $68 mn project for improving education in Nagaland

Source: Business Standard, Feb 23, 2021

New Delhi: Indian government, Government of Nagaland and the World Bank on Tuesday signed a $68 million project to enhance the governance of schools across Nagaland as well as to improve teaching practices and learning environments in select schools.

The “Nagaland: Enhancing Classroom Teaching and Resources Project” will improve classroom instruction; create opportunities for the professional development of teachers; and build technology systems to provide students and teachers with more access to blended and online learning as well as allow better monitoring of policies and programs, a Finance Ministry statement said.

Such an integrated approach will complement conventional delivery models and help mitigate the challenges posed by Covid-19.

About 150,000 students and 20,000 teachers in the government education system in Nagaland will benefit from the statewide reforms in schools.

C.S. Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, said that the education project in Nagaland will address the critical gaps faced by students and teachers and play an important role in the development of the state.

Nagaland currently faces challenges of weak school infrastructure, lack of opportunities for the professional development of teachers and limited capacity on the part of communities to partner effectively with the school system. The Covid-19 pandemic has further accentuated these challenges and created additional stress and disruptions to the state’s school education system. Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India said that even as the number of children attending school in India has increased over the last few years, there is a growing need to significantly improve learning outcomes to meet the demands of the labour market and fuel future growth. This project is designed to support the Government of Nagaland’s ongoing efforts to improve and develop a more resilient education system in the state.

India, Mauritius enter into limited free trade act

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 22, 2021

New Delhi: India and Mauritius have entered into a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Partnership Agreement (CECPA) that will allow trade in select goods between the two countries on preferential terms.

The bilateral CECPA signed on Monday is the first such pact that India has entered into with an African country and is expected to provide a wider entry for Indian goods into the entire continent.

“A special day for our special relationship. Privileged to witness along with (Mauritian) PM Jugnauth Kumar the signing of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Partnership Agreement, India’s first such agreement with an African country,” tweeted Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar who is visiting Mauritius.

The CECPA is a limited agreement, covering 310 export items for India, including foodstuff and beverages, agricultural products, textile and textile articles, base metals and articles, electrical and electronic items, plastics and chemicals, wood etc.

Benefit from preferential market access

Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.

Since Mauritius has free trade agreements with the rest of Africa, it could act as a gateway for Indian investments and exports to other African countries.

Under the agreement, Indian service providers will have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors such as professional services, computer related services, research & development, other business services, telecommunication, construction, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism & travel related, recreational, yoga, audio-visual services, and transport services. India has offered access in 95 sub-sectors from the 11 broad services sectors, including professional services, R&D, other business services, telecommunication, financial, distribution, higher education, environmental, health, tourism and travel related services, recreational services and transport services.

India-UK bilateral relations to touch new high post Covid: Report

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 21, 2021

India-UK bilateral relations will touch a new high in the post-COVID world, as India is likely to be a priority country for the UK, leading to an enhanced economic partnership, according to a report. According to the Britain Meets India report, developed by CII and Grant Thornton Bharat, FDI inflow from the UK to India for a particular year increased from USD 898 million in 2015-16 to USD 1,422 million in 2019-20.

Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Western Europe), Ministry of External Affairs, said, “Besides a free trade agreement, mobility and an interim trade deal, we are working on a 10-year 360 degree roadmap to strengthen our relationship with the UK. Going forward, we see investments in India’s clean energy sector coming from the UK.”

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru, Partner and India-UK Corridor Leader, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP said, “Our research identified 572 UK companies in India with a combined turnover of around INR 3,390 billion, tax payment of around INR 173 billion and employing 416,121 people directly. This reflects the important contribution made by the UK companies to the Indian economy as a key ally in India’s growth story.”

The list of ‘fastest growing UK companies in India’ includes Dyson Technology, Aviva Life Insurance, Diageo Business Services, RMD Kwikform and FMC Technologies, among others, says the report.

The list of ‘top 20 UK companies by revenue’ includes Vedanta, VodafoneHindustan Unilever, United Spirits India, etc. Also, G4S Group, Vedanta Resources and HSBC Holdings feature in ‘top UK employers in India’.

Among the states, Maharashtra tops as the leading investment destination for UK companies followed by Haryana, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka. Moreover, industrial and business services are top sectors being eyed by UK firms.
Gaitri Issar Kumar, High Commissioner of India to UK, said, “The governments of both India and the UK are committed to an enhanced trade partnership. We are developing a roadmap to a free trade agreement with an ambitious target of 100 billion pounds by 2030.”

Alex Ellis CMG, High Commissioner of UK to India, noted, “Both India and the UK must think about coming together to create a global impact. Both the economies will have to create a lot of jobs in the next decade and build back in a more sustainable way.”

For the purposes of this report, CII and GT Bharat identified 572 companies incorporated in India that are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly from the UK.

Additional benchmarks were an annual turnover of more than Rs 500 million, y-o-y revenue growth of at least 10 per cent and a minimum two-year track record of filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in India.