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India demands better market access from Russia; simpler visa norms on agenda

India will ask Russia for greater access to some sectors, including pharmaceuticals and animal products, simplified work permits and business visas.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 15, 2011, 04.51 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: India will ask Russia for greater access to some sectors, including pharmaceuticals and animal products, simplified work permits and business visas and mutual recognition of standards and institutions to reduce its growing trade imbalance with the country.

It will also push for an early start to discussions on the proposed free trade agreement, or FTA, between the two countries at the annual economic summit of Russia and CIS states at St Petersburg later this week. "While bilateral trade has been growing at a modest pace, our biggest concern at the moment is the growing trade imbalance that Russia must help us reduce," a government official told ET.

India-Russia trade stood at $4.55 billion in 2009-10 with Russia's trade surplus at $2.59 billion. In the first nine months of 2010-11, the trade gap was at $2 billion against a total trade of $4.02 billion. The two countries have set a target of $20 billion of bilateral trade by 2015.

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, who will represent India at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum beginning Thursday, will highlight various ways in which India's exports to the country could increase. A number of sectors, including bovine meat, other animal products and pharmaceuticals, are not fully open to Indian producers because of incompatible standards.

"India's exports could increase substantially if such sectors are opened up," the official said. India will stress on mutual recognition of standards and conformity assessment procedures that are scientifically determined and well-publicised and recognition of institutions like the Drugs Controller General of India.

According to Ficci, Indian exports would get a major boost if Russia and India could mutually recognise each other's pharma sectors. "India should concentrate on valueadded products in the existing trade basket, new high-value products like diamonds and further develop products like petroleum, petrochemicals and other chemicals that are still at the beginning of the growth phase," pointed out Ambika Sharma, deputy secretary general, Ficci, in a note on India-Russia trade potential.

The need for simplification of the process for issue of work permits and business visas and expeditious renewals will also be on India's agenda. "Till the time Russia simplifies the procedures for issuing work permits and visas, the environment for doing business will not be conducive. We will ask for early implementation of the visa simplification agreement signed last December," the official said.

The country is also keen on early commencement of negotiations on the proposed bilateral FTA. With Russia forming a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, India wants a renewed effort to conclude a FTA, which would include goods, services and investment.

There is a lot of potential for trade between the two countries as India's export to Russia was about 0.55% of its total exports in 2009-10 while its imports from the country were about 1.24% of its imports. Main exports to Russia include drugs & pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, transport equipment, tea, machinery and instruments, coffee, tobacco, cotton yarn and fabrics and electronic goods.
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