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India must lead Commonwealth economy, says Suresh Prabhu

India must lead Commonwealth economy, says Suresh Prabhu

As the country with the largest economy in the Commonwealth, India must take up its leadership and introduce dynamism to create wealth, minister for commerce and industry Suresh Prabhu said on Friday.

“The Commonwealth must create wealth and look at how to promote intra-Commonwealth trade and business. India as the largest economy must take up its leadership, there is need to put dynamism into the Commonwealth,” he told newspersons in London, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the upcoming Commonwealth heads of government meeting in April.

Commonwealth-related issues were among key issues the minister discussed with Britain’s international trade secretary Liam Fox during his ongoing visit here. He also interacted with British business leaders. A special cell had been created in his ministry to deal with British investment into India.

As Britain leaves the European Union, it sees India as a key country for trade. On the oft-repeated eagerness expressed in London to forge a free trade agreement with India, Prabhu said New Delhi was open for talks on the possibility of opening markets.

“We are friends with both the EU and the UK. We hope they have good relations. We are open to negotiations with anyone,” he said.

Fox announced that the national export credit agency, UK Export Finance, has more than doubled its financial support to enable UK businesses to trade with India. This means £4.5 billion will now be available for UK companies exporting to India as well as Indian buyers of UK goods and services.

The India-UK trade was worth £15.7 billion in 2016, with UK exports to India amounting to £5.8 billion. Indian foreign direct investment in the UK was worth £1.5 billion in 2016, while UK investment into India rose to £13.2 billion in 2016.

Fox said: “For the first time in 40 years, the UK is preparing for its own independent trade policy, and expanding our bilateral trade and investment with India will be central to that task. It’s in our shared interest to boost prosperity, generate jobs, develop skills, and enhance the competitiveness of both our countries.

“As an international economic department, we will continue to work closely with the Indian Government to break down the barriers to boosting trade. That includes more than doubling trade finance support for UK exporters and Indian buyers of our goods and services.”