Africa has been the NDA
government’s top priority in foreign as well as economic policy matters and
although Indian sportsmen can’t compete with their African peers in
The country will stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the
continent in its race towards a brighter future, Prime Minister Narendra
“India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model
of cooperation, which is responsive to the needs of African countries. It is
demand-driven and free of conditions,” the PM said.
The relationship that was earlier restricted to
mercantile and maritime ties has now evolved to include cricket connections
between Chennai and Cape Town, business ties between Bamako and Bengaluru,
links between Delhi and Dakar, Mr. Modi said.
“India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was
higher than our commodity trade with the United States of America,” the PM
India’s private sector is also providing an impetus to
stronger India-Africa ties with Africa accounting for nearly one-fifth of
Indian overseas direct investments between 1996 and 2016, the PM pointed
Mr. Modi said he was
encouraged by the response of African countries to the International Solar
Alliance initiative, which was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference
in Paris in November 2015.
Nauru ratified the framework and shared it with India,
while five other African countries signed the pact on Monday.
The two most crucial factors for the Union government’s
performance over the past three years have been banking reforms and Aadhaar,
which has already yielded savings of $4 billion in cooking gas subsidies, PM
Mr. Modi expressed satisfaction over the improvement
in “all macro-economic indicators” under his watch, but said he remained
focussed on the many challenges that lay ahead to fulfil his aim of making
India a global growth engine.
The Jan Dhan Yojana helped India achieve universal banking
and banks “normally associated with helping businesses and the rich” have
been enlisted for helping the development of the poor, the Prime Minister
“The fiscal deficit, balance of payments deficit, and
inflation are down. The GDP growth rate, foreign exchange reserves and
public capital investment are up. At the same time, we have made big strides
in development,” Mr. Modi said.
While laying out the common challenges faced by both India
and Africa, Mr. Modi indicated that his government’s priorities were
“uplifting our farmers and the poor, empowering women, ensuring our rural
communities have access to finance, and building infrastructure”.
Shared concerns over China’s Belt and Road initiative should
push India and the European Union closer to resume stalled talks over a Free
The issue of the FTA will be high on the agenda when Prime
Minister Narendra Modi meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Germany and other European countries had joined the Belt and
Road Forum, they had refused to sign a trade document at the summit due to a
lack of transparency in the negotiations.
Mr. Modi will travel to Germany for the fourth round of the
annual Inter- Governmental Commission on May 29-30, and is expected to
announce a number of agreements after his meeting with Ms. Merkel.
The meeting will be followed by a lunch to meet business
leaders at the Indo- German business forum, where officials say, concerns by
German tycoons over the lack of a negotiated FTA are expected to be
Germany's comments are significant, as they not only suggest
Germany would like to work with India to counter certain parts of the Belt
and Road, which India has refused to join over sovereignty concerns.
Germany is also making a strong pitch to India over
completing the EU-BTIA (called the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement)
that has been deadlocked since 2013, despite 16 rounds of negotiations.
Mr. Modi’s visit to the European Commission in April 2016
failed to bring about any agreement to even resume the talks that
essentially broke down over high taxes, market access and India’s concerns
over visas for skilled workers.
In the meanwhile, the India-Germany Bilateral Investment
Treaty (BIT), one of 23 BITs with EU countries, lapsed in March this year.
The White House proposed massive cuts in the country’s
welfare programmes, while seeking an increase in national security and
defence spending, including a wall along the U.S border with Mexico.
Congress is unlikely to approve the proposals made by the
White House in a document titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness”,
but they indicate the political priorities of the Donald Trump
Cuts in health care for the poor, food stamp, financial aid
to the jobless and the disabled are among the features of the budget that
the White House presented saw government spending from the perspective of
the tax payer.
The money saved will go into reducing taxes and enhanced
White House Budget director appeared to suggest a conflict
of interest between tax payers and beneficiaries of welfare programmes and
claimed the slow rate of growth in America is partly because of people’s
refusal to work.
Number of Americans on food stamp has swelled to 44 million
in 2016, up from the 28 million people in 2008 when the economic recession
hit the country.
The situation has not returned to normal in many parts of
the country where job losses are concentrated.
The Trump budget proposes to cut food stamp funding by over
25 percent over the next 10 years, directly hitting at a political
constituency that supported him in the November 2016 election.
While the benefits and medical care for the retirees would
be untouched as promised by Mr. Trump during the campaign, the health care
support for the poor will see cuts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will face cuts in
all its research and preventive interventions. CDC’s global health
programmes that monitor and respond to disease outbreaks around the world
will take a 17% cut.
India, which is in talks for the proposed mega-regional FTA
along with 16 other Asia Pacific nations, has expressed disappointment over
the inadequate progress in talks on services trade liberalisation.
Following economic slowdown and the consequent job losses,
most countries in the grouping have turned protectionist when it comes talks
on norms to ease temporary movement of skilled workers, adding that India
fears that the issue is getting mixed up with immigration.
The negotiations for the FTA, officially known as the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), started in November
It includes the 10 ASEAN member States and six nations that
have existing FTAs with ASEAN — India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan
and South Korea.
These nations have a combined GDP of about $24 trillion and
a population of around 3.6 billion.
Talks are likely to stretch into the first half of 2018 as
several aspects of goods, services and investment have not yet been
So far, four ministerial meetings, three inter-sessional
ministerial meetings and 18 rounds of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC)
at the technical level have been held. The nineteenth round of TNC meeting
is scheduled in Hyderabad from July 18-28.
In return for eliminating or reducing tariffs on goods,
India wants RCEP member countries to work toward liberalisation across all
modes of services, including movement of professionals.
India, a leading services supplier with a large pool of
skilled workers, is keen that the FTA ensures easier temporary movement of
such professionals as well as an ‘RCEP Travel Card’ for business people.