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Lubna inaugurates Arab-India Partnership Conference

(WAM) / 22 May 2012

Shaikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade today opened the “3rd Arab-India Partnership Conference: Development through Trade “&” Investment” at Etihad Towers here in Abu Dhabi.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy and a number of ministers of trade and industry in the Arab countries and India.

The conference is held under the patronage of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and is organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce “&” Industry (FICCI) in association with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, the Secretariat of Arab League and Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce “&” Industry.

Following is the full speech of Sheikha Lubna,

“A sunny morning to you all and welcome to our nation’s capital. Abu Dhabi is honored to host this conference and join you in celebrating the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the Arab World and India.

Before anything else I would like to commend the organizers from the Arab and Indian sides for their efforts and cooperation in preparing for this important event. I am fully confident that this conference will take the collaboration between our two regions to greater heights.

Arab countries have had broad and prosperous relations with India that go back to several centuries ago, and which have resulted in partnerships in many areas such as facilitating trade and strengthening linkages between India and the Arab world. The past few decades have witnessed a great global economic openness that has seen the development of relations between our two sides make remarkable progress. We have achieved more prosperity for our peoples and for the Arab region’s part we have emerged as a strategic partner for the Indian economy.

The people of India have made great contributions to the growth of the Arab region in general and the GCC in particular. Many of them have occupied important positions in key areas such as financial services, healthcare, management, accounting, and civil and architectural engineering.

In terms of our commercial activities, bilateral trade between India and Arab countries exceeded USD 144 billion in 2011. We aim to sustain the momentum through mutual cooperation in sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, oil and gas engineering, mining and mineral-based industries, tourism and hospitality, healthcare, financial services, agriculture and food processing, and education and the labor force.

Although the Arab Gulf States have maintained centuries-old cultural and historic ties with India, it has only been during the past few decades that our bilateral trade has posted record levels. This rapid evolution of our commercial partnership can be attributed to key factors such as India’s economic liberalization after 1990 and its surge in demand for energy supplies.

We would further benefit from enhancing our two-way foreign direct investment (FDI). Looking back, capital flows from the GCC to India amounted to around USD 2.6 billion from April 2000 to January 2012, while India’s FDI contribution to the GCC for the same period was at USD 2.4 billion. To date, power, services and construction account for the majority of inflows from the GCC to India, which has emerged as one of our major sources of FDI. Software development and engineering services, tourism, readymade garments, chemical products, and agricultural and allied services, on the other hand, represent the greatest investment attractions for Indian corporates.

It would be ideal for both our parties to reach a Free Trade Agreement that can further increase and expand our bilateral FDIs. We should also work on initiatives to fully optimize our business and investment partnerships, such as boosting the frequency of our delegate visits, removing some non-tariff related barriers, and expanding our trade beyond traditional exports and imports.

For our part, the United Arab Emirates is fully committed to maintaining its status as India’s single largest foreign trade partner. Our trade relations with India have grown by a remarkable 300 per cent over the last 5 years, thriving on diverse businesses such as jewellery and machinery, food and chemical products.

Right now we are eyeing possible local partnerships in growth areas such as education, logistics, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. We are also very interested in cooperative ventures involving technology transfer and research and development to accelerate our transformation into a genuine knowledge-based, digital society.

The India-Middle East corridor is expected to grow by 34 per cent to emerge as one of the world’s fastest-growing trade corridors by 2013. Given that it is the second-most populous country in the world with an enormous consumer base of over 1.2 billion, India is definitely among our priority partners moving forward.

India is also the first trade partner of the UAE, with our bilateral exchange topping USD 44 billion last year. If we take trade in free zones into consideration as well, then the figure rises to USD 67 billion and could touch nearly USD 100 billion in a few more years. We intend to ensure the sustained productivity of our partnerships by offering various trade and investment incentives such as 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits; our 32 world-class free zones; zero corporate profit and personal income taxes; inexpensive energy sources; and business-friendly policies, among many others.

As a result of such an environment, the UAE has become the most diversified foreign base of Indian corporates. More than 40 leading Indian companies have established a presence here, and almost all major Indian banks are represented locally. The availability of 500 weekly flights between the UAE and the various Indian cities has helped facilitate dynamic business ties as well, aside from encouraging more travel between our countries.

We would like to encourage our Indian partners to consider investments and ventures with our more than 208,000 small and medium enterprises or SMEs which comprise almost 80 per cent of the UAE’s private sector . Our SMEs form the backbone of our economy and can lend their experience, expertise and resources to grow their business.

We also invite the members of the Arab and Indian public and private sectors to support more bilateral visits and organize and participate in each other’s exhibitions and other special economic activities.

As the Middle East’s second-largest economy and one of the world’s top 20 trading states, we have much to offer as a trade ally with India. But on the other hand, we also aim to advance our investments into India. We have already infused almost USD 2 billion in Direct Investments into the country to make us India’s 10th biggest foreign investor. Some of the top UAE companies that have flourished in India include DP World, Emaar Group, Al Nakheel, ETA Star Group, SS Lootah Group, Emirates Techno Casting FZE, RAK Investment Authority, Damas Jewellery and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. We plan to explore more opportunities over there, especially in the energy, services, technology, construction, and tourism sectors.

Although this event spotlights our region’s commercial partnership with India, we acknowledge that our bonds also extend to the social, cultural and political spheres and go back thousands of years. We cannot talk business without looking back at how much we have grown as friendly nations. We value India’s rich role in our history and its important influence on our future.”

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