Peru is India's new billion-dollar trade partner in Latin America. Indian exports to Peru are expected to cross the $1 billion mark in 2014. Peru is also a founder member of the Pacific Alliance which includes Mexico, Colombia and Chile. India was admitted as an observer to the Pacific Alliance in February 2014.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Q. You are visiting India to hold government level talks on Free Trade Agreement (FTA). What are your expectations from this visit?
Edgar Vasquez, Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Peru (Minister): This visit is a clear signal from the Peruvian government about our interest to have a closer relations with India. We can say that India and Peru have an important potential in order to strengthen the bilateral relationship not just in terms of trade but in other areas also. Since I am the vice minister for foreign trade, my visit is focusing to identify opportunities for the trade in goods and services, investment and of course the possibility to identify the means in order to improve the condition for the travel for visit of countries. My meetings with the Indian authorities is to convince them about the potential and the importance to have this bilateral relations with Peru. Peru is an important country in the Latin America with an dynamic economic growth leading the region with many similarities with India. And we can say that India could use Peru as base to expand their business in Latin America.
Q. There is a new government in India led by PM Narendra Modi. In 2003 when NDA was in power, a visit by the then Indian foreign minister to Peru triggered cooperation in Technology on Information between both the countries. What are the expectations of Peru from the new government in India this time?
Minister: We have high expectations. It is important to remember that some days ago Indian PM Mr. Modi and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tasso met in Brazil during the BRICS meeting. They spoke about the many cooperation, activities that both the countries could develop in the short term in terms of business, in terms of education and many other areas. And also President Humala is planning to visit India in the first month of the next year. We are waiting for the specific dates. Of course both the authorities want to have a closer relations and I ensure that we will have that.
Q. Indian companies have prominently invested in Latin America's mining industry. India also import crude oil from this region. There are Indian IT companies operational in Peru. What could be the other areas in Peru where you think Indian companies can invest into?
Minister: Peru is a rich country. We have important mineral resources, fisheries blocks, agricultural sector. We also have an industry that is complimentary with the Indian industries with many opportunities for business. That means that there is wide range of opportunities for Indian investors. (We are) not just focusing in some particular areas. But of course our interest is to have possibility to receive Indian investors in industrial activities in services related to IT sector, and also in the tourism sector, where Peru has big potential. We need to develop our tourist infrastructure. I am sure that the Indian investors and businessmen in this sector have lot of experience and we can take advantage of that. And of course Indian investors will take advantage of opportunities in Peru. And also we deficit of infrastructure. We are making important process of concession to construct roads, ports, energy infrastructure, so that Peru can grow with the same rate it has grown so far in recent years. That means that there wide range of business opportunity in Peru.
Q. Has India-Peru trade relations got impacted from the atmosphere of global economic crisis? If yes, then to which extent? And if not, then how the two countries managed to shield their trade relations from the economic crisis?
Minister: That's true, Peru and India, are economies are participating in an important way in the global economy. We have failed the impacts of the dis-acceleration of the economy, basically in comparison to developed countries. But this is important to note that, in that environment Peru and India are continuing to show important rates of economic growth. Peru is maintaining, for this year for perspective to grow more than 4%, if you can see the perspective from other countries, they are reducing the perspectives around 1 or 2% and Peru is continuously growing at an important rate. India is a similar case, that is true the global economy is in a process of dis-acceleration but both countries have the potential in order to identify additional opportunities, new markets in order to maintain the important rate of economic growth.
Q. India is not part of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement under negotiation among 12 countries. Don't you think if India becomes part of the TPP, it will be advantageous for all the stakeholders?
Minister: Well Peru is participating in many forums, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, and of course our participation is because we believe that is positive. We can take advantage of the opportunities, we can create new kind of free trade agreements and of course taken into account that the participation of Peru is considered in a positive, we can ask any other country to participate also. But TPP has one one particularity. Is it open basically to APEC economies, that means that the 12 countries that are participating have part of that forum. And is open to basically to other APEC members. India at this moment is not an APEC member, but of course, if India pays an intention to be part of the forum, then we will evaluate together with our current partners in the TPP. Ff there is any intention of other countries including India about their interest to participate and if we receive that special intention of course at that time we will evaluate together with our current partners.
Q. Peru is India's new billion dollar trade partner in Latin America and Indian exports to Peru are expected to cross the $1 billion mark in 2014; yet India is at a disadvantage vis-a?-vis exports from Peru's Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners. What would you like to say on this? How this disadvantageous position can be changed?
Minister: Well that is part of our argument in order to have closer relations and negotiate a kind of free trade agreement with India. Because in that way we can have a similar condition like other competitor countries in Latin America, who already have FTAs with India. And also India could receive similar or better condition like other countries with which Peru has already FTA. That means the possibility to negotiate FTA with India would benefit both the sides in order to have the same level of playing fields for everybody and of course may be improve the condition for our trade in a comprehensive way. Not just trading goods, we want to propose the Indian government to seeing some specific sectors for trade in services in order to improve the condition of our investors and to improve the condition of our people in particular some professionals.
Q. How do you see India's position in the Indian sub-continent?
Minister:Well, India is the most important country in this region, and is an important partner of Peru. We want to have a closer relation taken into account that we already have FTA with some important players in the Asian regions like China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and of course our participation in APEC in Trans Pacific Partnership negotiation. That's why we are fully convince about the benefits of having a preferential trade relations with India, a key actor in the region and of course globally.
Q. India and Latin American countries are having cordial and friendly relations since a long time. How this relationship could be strengthen and made more attractive?
Minister:Well from the perspective of the Minister Foreign Trade and Tourism, and I in my capacity of Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade is seeing for the possibility to negotiate trade agreement with India. In order to have preferential treatment in many areas, like I expressed before, in trades and goods, service, investment for the people in order to improve the numbers of our bilateral trade. In order to know better each other, in order to have the possibility to increase the commercial missions to both sides. And of course in order to take advantage of the important economic dimensions that both the countries are showing to the work. Both countries are leading their respective regions and we can say that we can take advantage of that situation. In particular Peru could be used by the Indian investors to set up their base in Latin America and also Peru can use India as its base in South countries (South Asian countries)
Q. The Peruvian Community in India is quite small i.e. around two hundred people, mainly women. Similarly the Indian Community in Peru is also quite small, around 50-60 families. Does this reflect that both the countries have a lot of potential to explore business setups, tourism promotion etc? What you think about this?
Minister:Yes, that's true. In both sides we have small communities but those are really important one with important activities. In Peru we have a short community, a small community but very active, that is making progress faster in there business. They are in many sectors like mining services, IT services, in tourism and many others. Well, Peru is an open market that receives with open arms, to there foreign investors, in particular the Indian community are well treated in Peru and well received in Peru.
Q. You are visiting India for the first time. How is your experience so far?
Minister:Yes, of course. One important motivation of this travel is feeling in person, the reality here, the people, the city, your culture. I have identified the more similarities I have seen before. In many scenes we both countries have millinery cultures, both countries have one people. And also we have similarities in our astronomies. We enjoy a lot spicy food and the hot food in Peru and the same is same here. I have identified many similarities. Both the countries are important democracies in the world. The Indian democracy is bigger one in the world and Peru also have the tradition of democracy that is important. To try to progress together, try to be one people that cooperate each other and that means that two countries and our people could construct something together in the future. That would be important not just for our people but for the world.