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India, Japan Seek to Improve Trade Despite Obstacles


Business leaders and trade officials from India and Japan are in agreement that the current level of trade does not match the economic power of the two Asian nations. But Indians and Japanese disagree on the reasons, and how their two-way trade can reach its potential. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

The Indians say the Japanese have failed to take advantage of India's soaring economy.

At a time when India's economy is growing by nearly 10 percent a year, Japan's share of total Indian trade fell below 2.6 percent in the 2005-2006 fiscal year, compared with nearly four percent several years earlier.

Japanese officials say their country ranks as the third-largest foreign investor in India. But Indian businessmen say the Japanese have not followed up with sufficient new investment.

At the India-Japan Strategic Partnership Symposium in New Delhi on Friday, Rakesh Mohan, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, reminded Japanese business leaders they were responsible for helping to build a world-class automotive industry here.

He says those manufacturing standards have spread to other sectors of India's economy, but further investment from Japan has been disappointing.

"The whole total quality movement in India has been induced by Japan and therefore, I think, that there have been a lot of opportunities missed," said Mohan. "And one would hope that now Japan would no longer miss such opportunities in the years to come."

Mikio Sasaki, the chairman of Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan's largest trading company, told the symposium that India has much to do if it desires significant new foreign investment.

"Developing power-generating plants, ports, roads, railways and other public infrastructure is a major area that needs a strong response," he said

Japanese investors also complain about bureaucratic delays, widespread corruption, and interstate regulations that increase the time and cost of moving goods across the country.

Indian business leaders counter that they face significant challenges in expanding exports to Japan, such as entry barriers for chemicals and medicines, and high tariffs on seafood.

The two countries are in the process of reaching what they call a "comprehensive economic partnership agreement." The Japanese say the first high-level dialogue on the pact will be held in Japan next month. An Indian official predicts a deal will be made within one year.

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