Latin American & Caribbean Countries Explore Business Opportunities in Bengal
| Didhiti Ghosh - 05 Dec 2018

GRULAC-Bengal Business Conclave Held in Kolkata

Latin American & Caribbean Countries Explore Business Opportunities in Bengal

BY DIDHITI GHOSH

Senior Correspondent, Indian Observer Post

KOLKATA, DEC 03, 2018: “After slowdown in trade and diplomatic exchanges, Bengal will now play a more active role in the economic domain with interstate cooperation”, said Chief Guest Amit Mitra, Finance and Industry Minister of West Bengal in a recent business conclave where several Latin American and Caribbean countries had face-to-face discussions with top representatives of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The GRULAC-Bengal Business Conclave, where country representatives from more than 18 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) regions participated from 28-30th November 2018, also hosted the inauguration of the first Latin American and Caribbean Film Festival in association with the Federation of Film Societies of India (Eastern Region) and Nandan. The conclave included exhibitions of textiles and photographs from several LAC countries including El Salvador and Guatemala, along with a performance of tango dance from artists of Argentina and poetry reading sessions. Augusto Montiel, Coordinator of GRULAC and Ambassador of Venezuela to India, said, “We come here with a big chest of the cultural and spiritual blend to form prospective business relations with Bengal, unlike never before”.  

The event was attended by honourable ambassadors, honorary consul generals, chargé d’affaires, cultural attachés and deputy heads of missions of countries like Venezuela, Guatemala, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Ecuador, Suriname, Argentina, Panama, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Bolivia and Uruguay. The event was also attended by regional commercial groups in the LAC like ALBA, CARICOM, MERCOSUR, SICA & the Pacific Alliance.

The Vice-President of the Federation of Film Festival in India (East), Premendra Mazumdar expressed his firm idea to hold LAC-Bengal film festivals in more than 20 major cities of India apart from Kolkata to help the motion picture bond between these countries develop at a more national level. “We already have more than 500 branches of the FFSI in India, which is an encouraging point of start. Throughout the past 20 years, we have grown both in quality and magnitude from the Indo-Argentine Cultural Festival, the small group that we started with to what we are today, the first of its kind in the whole of India.”

Mentionable is the fact that earlier the same day, Guatemala was officially chosen to be theme country for the next International Kolkata Book Fair to start from 30th January 2019. “Looking forward towards active cultural and literary cooperation between Bengal and Guatemala, it is with pleasure that we choose Guatemala as the theme country for the 43rd International Kolkata Book Fair, 2019,” said Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, Hony. General Secretary of the Publishers & Booksellers Guild, Kolkata in the presence of Giovanni Castillo, Ambassador of Guatemala to India and Sudhansu Dey, Director of the Publishers & Booksellers Guild at a press conference.

“Now is the time for the LAC countries to come and invest in Bengal. I am optimistic that many of these countries will come at the 5th Bengal Global Business Summit in February 2019, since 6 countries have already agreed to partner in Bengal in the BGBS 2019, including Germany and Italy which the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (TMC) visited in September 2018,” said Amit Mitra.

He also expressed his displeasure over the role of the Central Government headed by BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi in developing diplomatic and trade relations between India & the LAC countries under the National Democratic Alliance regime. Data from the Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry show that total trade had hit $41 billion in the financial year 2012-2013 but had seen a sharp decline till 2016-2017. In 2017-2018, there had been a growth of 19.63% which was still below the peak level.

“In 2014, Modi visited Brazil during the BRICS summit, but unfortunately, since then the Central Government has hardly engaged in talks with these countries. This has affected the diplomatic relationship between India and LatAm & Caribbean nations, where only 5 diplomatic leaders from the LAC region visited India during the past 4 years,” he said. The new hope is that through the present GRULAC-Bengal Business Conclave the East’s initiative will push the Central Government to engage in more frequent economic, trade and cultural relations and on a long-term perspective. Mitra also called for more Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with the LAC, and added that Bengal and LAC already have deep social & cultural linkages; a favourable point to add on to the $48 billion business generated between India and the LAC in the year 2013-2014 from what was only $2 billion in 2000.

Bengal being the talking point of business in India is one of the foremost regions in terms of human capital generation and creation of employment. One company in Bengal has recently invested in Chile for manufacturing of mining machinery.

The conclave with the special focus on West Bengal was organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in the presence of its Director-General Rajeev Singh, who emphasized on significant growth opportunities on a number of core competency areas that India and the LAC have in common, like information technology, leather, agriculture, and textile manufacturing.

In Didhiti Ghosh’s exclusive interview to the honorable LAC representatives, the latter expressed their areas of interest in forming business bridges with India in general Bengal in particular. Giovanni Castillo, Ambassador of Guatemala to India expressed his desire to give special emphasis on the International Kolkata Book Fair 2019, where the country will organize photographic exhibitions, introduce Guatemalan films and cultural artist exchanges. Business in tea sector will also be highlighted throughout the next few years. Argentina, which will be celebrating 70 years of bilateral relations with India in 2019 will focus more on the agribusiness sector with emphasis on the export and import of paddy and wheat, said Daniel Chuburu, Ambassador of Argentina to India. Apart from this, the oil and gas, renewable energy, technology, and mining sectors will also be highlighted. The Deputy Head of Mission of Cuba to India, Ferdinand Juan Carlos Marcof put Cuba’s interest in forming near future trade ties in the pharmaceutical, renewable energy and cultural sectors with Bengal. Fleming Raúl Duarte, Ambassador of Paraguay to India expressed his country’s interest to initiate a joint venture with India in the agro, oil, pharmaceutical, liquor, automotive, ITec and technical sectors along with the transfer of technology in business exchanges. Augusto Montiel recalled the unforgettable memories of Rabindranath Tagore’s concept in merging education with the creative spirit which is very much implemented in Venezuela’s education system. Montiel also mentioned his visit to Shantiniketan and Rabindra Bharati University and speaking about Simón Bolívar and his mentor Simón Rodríguez, and how their philosophy of life is much similar to that of Tagore. He also emphasized Venezuela’s interest in merging the India-LAC economic and trade sectors. Peru is, on a different note, interested in forming the business in the handicrafts and bisutería jewelry sector, where recently it officially launched the e-catalog “Peru Bisutería” initiated by the Indo-Peruvian Partnership, according to the Ambassador of Peru to India Jorge Castañeda.

Photo Courtesy - Embassy of Guatemala in India & ICCR

(DIDHITI GHOSH is a journalist, script-writer, professor and a certified translator-interpreter of the Spanish language. She is the Senior Correspondent of INDIAN OBSERVER POST based in Kolkata. Contact: didhiti.24@gmail.com).

Photo Caption - (LtoR) Ambassador of Guatemala to India Giovanni Castillo, Didhiti Ghosh, Ambassador of Venezuela to India Augusto Montiel

 


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