UK PM wants India to open insurance, banking & retail
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain made a strong pitch here on Monday for opening the insurance, banking and retail sectors in India for foreign investment.
He also called for further simplifying of investment procedures, to make things easier for the operations of companies from abroad.
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Further, Cameron, who is heading a business delegation of a little over 100 people, announced the UK would, for for the first time, begin issuing same-day visas to Indian businessmen, and said there would be no limit on the number of students from India studying in that country. In his speech at the meeting with representatives of Indian business, he said: “We are looking forward to the future. We want to be your partner of choice in this fantastic journey you are on."
The visit comes on the heels of the controversy over the procurement of 12 helicopters for use by VVIPs in 2010, bought for $748 million from AgustaWestland, an Anglo-Italian company. The visit, Cameron’s second here since he became PM in 2010, also comes while UK-based telecom major Vodafone is engaged in a big tax dispute with the India.
About 700 Indian companies operate in Britain, with the diversified Tata Group the largest private manufacturing sector employer in that country. The two countries are also looking to expand trade. Bilateral merchandise trade in the financial year ended March 31, 2012, rose 27 per cent from the previous year to $16.2 billion (Rs 87,450 crore). The countries hope to increase their annual trade to $34.15 billion (Rs 1.8 lakh crore) by 2015. As of last October, the UK’s foreign direct investments in India totalled $17.1 billion (Rs 92,300 crore), making it the third largest investor in India, behind Mauritius and Singapore.
Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons and chairman till recently of the Tata Group, commended the manner of support by the British government for their presence in the UK. “We are in discussions with the UK government (on) where we can get incentives or support to make our operations more competitive in the world," he said.
He termed the acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover by Tata Motors a success, while saying the acquisition of Corus, the steel giant, still faced problems.
Adi Godrej, president, Confederation of Indian Industry, was optimistic about a further increase in trade and investment between the two countries. Especially, he said, in areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, skill development and innovative technology. However, Godrej made a strong case for improvement in the UK’s regulatory environment for investment.