Dilek Ayhan to the NICCI members: “Everything is based on the relations of trust. The more we meet, the more we create”
When the dominant D’s of determination and drive blend in seamlessly, you know that it has been a perfectly efficient business day! And, after you have heard from the State Secretary of Trade and Industry and the Indian Ambassador to Norway about their earnest endeavours to thrust the bilateral relations between the two countries, you can believe that it is ‘effective’ written all over it! At the Annual Member Meeting of the Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI), it was a power-packed discussion on the burgeoning Norway-India business relations in Oslo on Thursday, December 4, 2014.
Member Meeting: a perfect setting to boost bilateral ties
Around 40 members of NICCI representing both Norwegian and Indian businesses gathered at Advokatfirmaet Schjødt for an evening of weighty deliberations and significant resolutions focused on Norway-India business ties. Apart from Schjødt who were the hosts for the evening, other industry partners and key stakeholders who were present for the event were Innovation Norway, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Umoe, Norlense, Infosys, Nets Norway AS, Evry, DNB, DNV-GL and Larsen & Toubro among many others. There were representatives from Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. The mingling session before the main event provided a fitting platform for a delightful tête-à-tête on business, multiculturalism and more. Bringing together leading figures from businesses from both the countries, it set the precursor to the key segment consisting of presentations by the H.E. Ambassador Air Chief Marshall (Retd.) NAK Browne and State Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dilek Ayhan. The Member Meeting was followed by an Extraordinary General Meeting exclusive to the members of NICCI to discuss and approve their most pressing decisions.
Free Trade Agreement between EFTA States and India likely to be signed soon
Amidst a group of prominent faces from both Norwegian and Indian businesses, the State Secretary of Trade and Industry, Dilek Ayhan emphasized that the conclusion of negotiations between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and India is the most significant matter of discussion with India at the present. “Negotiations are very advanced and only a small number of technical issues remain to be solved. I am confident that the final result will be a mutual benefit for both the countries”, she said. In the light of the ongoing negotiations, Dilek Ayhan also announced that Norway remains committed to continue the work in order to conclude the negotiations and that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Mæland intends to be in India in the near future.
Addressing the key issues in the broad-based free trade agreement (FTA) between the EFTA states and India, Indian Ambassador to Norway, NAK Browne also assured that the recent 13th round of negotiations held in November in New Delhi has made a considerable headway. “We (both Norway and India) are both on the same page on this issue. We are waiting to resolve some technical issues. The moment that gets out of the way, we will be ready to implement the EFTA agreement. And, I hope, by next year, we should have the benefits of EFTA agreement”, he asserted.
Norway to make the most of the momentum after the State Visit
After the successful state visit by the President of India to Norway in October, the State Secretary reiterated that it is time to make the most of the momentum to focus on what can be done to make the partnership between our countries even stronger. “We would like to look ahead and try to introspect on the future potential for the Indo-Norwegian economic relations. One of the highest priorities in our partnership with India is to further increase trade and investments,” she said.
Modest trade between the countries: a concern
However, both the State Secretary and the Indian Ambassador expressed their concern for the modest volume of trade between the two countries in spite of the fact that trips between the two nations have tripled and Norwegian investments in India have increased eight-fold during the last ten years. “Our countries are not utilizing the full potential of the trade relations”.
India as a preferred destination for business and investments
Considering the recently held State Visit by the Indian President to Norway a fillip to the robust bilateral ties between Norway and India, Ambassador NAK Browne assured that there is a tremendous amount of vigour in the way the present government in India is dealing with commerce, trade and investment. Making a strong pitch for India as a preferred destination for business and investments, Ambassador Browne emphasized that India can offer a great amount of return on investments and that the groundwork has been made in order to attract foreign investments to the country. Insinuating to a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), he also added that the FDI flows to India is to remain buoyant in the coming quarter. FDI flows into India will be valued at 14.1 billion US$ in the first five months of 2014-2015 and 3.5% year-on-year increase from the same period in the last fiscal, he added.
IT sector is one of the strongest sectors for investments in India
When one of the board members of NICCI, Torkel Thorsen from NHO asked about the promising sectors in India that have the potential for increased Norwegian-Indian economic cooperation, Ambassador Browne stated, “IT sector will remain one of the strongest sectors for investments. While the lynchpin in China is the manufacturing industry, in India it is the IT industry.” Borrowing a line from Narayan Murthy, the Co-founder of one the largest IT companies in India, Ambassador Browne drew the attention of the members present to the incredible story of India’s growth in the IT sector. IT industry creates more jobs than the public sector in India. It’s the biggest job creator in the country with 3.2 million employees and adding 200,000 jobs every year. “If you get into the IT sector, you won’t get it wrong”, he affirmed.
Norwegians can avail online tourist visa-on-arrival to India
Ambassador Browne also made a special mention of a weekly economic bulletin from the foreign office in India that can serve as a manual to get an overview of India’s commercial climate. It was decided that the NICCI website will publish regular updates from that bulletin. Chairperson, NICCI, Rina Sunder added to the favourable climate for investments in India when she spoke about the recently introduced scheme to provide online tourist visa-on-arrival to India. The electronic travel authorization which will be in the form of an email received by the tourist from the Indian authorities will entitle the prospective tourist to a 30-day stay in India. As part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign, she said, “Potential investors can post questions on doing business in India portal and they will be answered by a panel of experts within 72 hours.”
Minister of Trade and Industry along with the State Secretary likely to attend the business summit in India
On this occasion, Ambassador Browne took the opportunity to extend an invitation to the Prime Minister of Norway and the State Secretary of Trade and Industry to address the forum of Norway-Asia Business Summit to be organized by the Norwegian Business Association India (NBAI) in New Delhi in April, 2015. The State Secretary gladly welcomed the invitation and said, “I hope I will be able to attend the event in India and strengthen the economic relations between the two countries”. It is likely that Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Mæland will also attend the summit in India, she said. It was heartening to hear Ayhan say, “Everything is based on the relations of trust. The more we meet, the more we create.” Profound and promising at the same time!
Written by: Sudipa Chakraborty