NEW DELHI: India is looking to expand its trade footprint in America with initial discussions initiated in the Government for a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with Caribbean and Central American countries and a logistics hub in Panama to help shipment of goods. The move comes with fresh overtures to Cuba, which is returning to the global mainstream.
Sources in Commerce Ministry informed that a plan for Indian logistics centres in Panama has been discussed internally. The Central American Country is a major shipping and airline hub and the facility can be useful to encourage warehousing facilities to enable Indian goods to be delivered ‘just in time’ to companies in the region.
Although it’s still in initial stages, a section in the Centre believes that it would be useful to explore a trade agreement with Carricom, the 15-nation trading bloc, along with a limited deal with the Central American countries, the sources said. While India had earlier tried to diversify its trade basket with a focused scheme for Latin America, the move has seen limited impact. The region’s share in India’s exports is less than 3%, with Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Columbia and Peru accounting for over 70% of this.
Commerce & Industry Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu is making a rare visit to Cuba, where India is a partner Country for the Havana Trade Fair, and is due to meet his Cuban counterpart apart from Trade Ministers from Suriname, Barbados, Dominican Republic and Haiti. He then goes to Panama, where a logistics hub — something that China has already done — is expected to figure on the agenda.
Describing it as a “winwin” deal, the tropical farm produce from the Caribbean countries is unlikely to put pressure on India’s farm sector, a no-go area as far as opening up is concerned, sources informed. On the other hand, few Government officials are also of the view that a trade agreement can open the doors for Indian companies to provide lowcost medicines, automobiles, engineering, textiles and leather products.