India seeks more China access

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/27 21:58:41

Country hoping to boost agricultural exports

An Indian merchant shows his products at an exhibition in Beijing in August 2016. File photo: VCG

India is pushing China to further open up its market and allow more access for Indian agricultural products in order to narrow the two countries' widening trade gap.

Suresh Prabhu, India's commerce minister, on Monday urged China to open up its markets for agricultural products like rapeseed, soybeans, basmati and non-basmati rice, fruit, vegetables and sugar, according to a report by Indian business news website on Monday.

Prabhu made the comments at a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Zhong Shan, according to the report. Prabhu also expressed concern about the trade imbalance between the two countries.

India's requests were made shortly after the two countries on Saturday signed 101 trade agreements valued at about $2.37 billion during the visit of a trade group to India organized by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). The agreements involve trade of agricultural products including black tea, castor oil, peppermint oil and coco fiber.

In response, Zhong said that it is China's unshakable policy to strengthen as well as deepen its trade relations with India, according to a statement published on the official MOFCOM website on Monday. Zhong also invited Indian companies to attend the upcoming China International Import Expo and suggested that India might be able to increase exports to China via the expo.

Sino-Indian bilateral trade surged 26.1 percent on a yearly basis in the first two months of 2018, Chinese customs data showed on March 8. In 2017, bilateral trade rose by 20.3 percent year-on-year, although India's trade deficit with China increased to more than $50 billion, up from $46.6 billion in 2016.

Quarantine issue

Khyati Shah, a marketing professional from India, said that India has a large agricultural sector and adequate farmland. "Even after feeding the local population, there is sufficient quantity for exports. This would include traditional grains like rice, wheat and corn as well as fruit and vegetables," she told the Global Times on Tuesday.

She also said that Indian products are not at all easy to find in China, even in big cities. "If I want to cook Indian cuisine, I have to bring enough stocks from my visits to India," she said. "Nearby Hong Kong has enough Indian stores and no shortage of Indian products, so why not the mainland?"

Liu Xiaoxue, an associate research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's strict quarantine standards for imported food have been an obstacle for India to increase agricultural exports to China.

A report by China National Radio in May 2016 said that a batch of mango products from India had been destroyed by Tianjin quarantine staff because it contained excessive microorganisms.

"Transport is another problem, as vegetables in India are [usually] transported only over a short distance. So whether India can guarantee the freshness of their farming products after long-haul transportation to China remains a question," Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Tian Kai, a Chinese native who has worked in India, said that India is rich in certain ingredients like turmeric (a spice used for making curry). But these items are not that common in Chinese recipes so domestic demand for them is meager, he told the Global Times.

A Tianjin resident surnamed Liu said that he had bought Indian red tea several times and said that it's not only cheap but also tasty. He also said that he hoped China can import more cancer medicine from India.

Sun Shihai, an expert at the South Asia Research Center under the Sichuan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that India usually exports resource products with low added value to China, while importing more costly infrastructure products from China, which is a major factor behind the two countries' trade gap.

"Such an imbalance in the value chain is very hard to solve in a short period of time," he said.

Data from showed that by the end of October 2016, India exported nearly 130 categories of products to China, albeit in relatively small quantities, with the major items including cotton yarn and petroleum oils.

Liu said that another way to address the trade gap would be for India to strengthen its services trade, especially tourism, with China.


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