Myanmar-India Business Summit indicates tourism cooperation

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There are growing links between India and Myanmar in tourism.

Visiting Consul General of India Mr Nandan Singh Bhaisora ppointed out the growing ties, trade and business links between the two neighbors during the Myanmar-India Business Summit & Trade Fair held at the Town Hall in Sagaing, Myanmar on 11 January.

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The Consulate General of India, Mandalay in collaboration with Sagaing District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indo Myanmar Association, Imphal and Manipur Industries Development Council, Manipur is holding a “Myanmar-India Business Summit and Trade Fair” from 11-12 January.

A 30-member delegation of prominent business leaders from Manipur, dealing with various sectors have been participating in the event. These business delegates are from various sectors such as agriculture, fruits and vegetables, food processing, handloom, handicrafts, iron and steel products, financial services, healthcare, education and tourism.

In his speech at the event, the Consul General of India lauded the growing India-Myanmar ties.

The following is an edited transcript of the Consul General of India Mr Nandan Singh Bhaisora’s speech.

A very warm welcome to all of you on behalf of the Indian Consulate , Mandalay, to this Myanmar -India Business Summit and Trade Fair, which is  being organised jointly by the Indian Consulate, Sagaing District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indo-Myanmar Association, Imphal, Manipur and Economic Diplomacy and States Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India.

There are various other sponsors and partners on both sides. Today a large business delegation dealing with various sectors – agricultural products- fruits and vegetables, food processing, handloom, handicrafts, iron & steel products, trekking items, financial services, healthcare, tourism etc. are here from Manipur, India.

The North Eastern Region of India has so much of diversity of products; Manipur has bamboo industry, handlooms, aromatic and medicinal plants, horticulture crops, handicrafts, raw silk production, large quantity of natural resources, potential for hydropower generation industry, tourism places, good hospitals;  business with Myanmar in some of these products is already going on but not at the scale it should happen. Only on 13th June and again on 19th December, 2018 we had organized a similar business networking event in MRCCI Hall, Mandalay with the support of Manipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the MRCCI. Also I had a meeting in October 2018 with the Sagaing Industrial Zone and the SDCCI and I found that there are many areas where the business leaders from Sagaing Region can engage with those from Manipur and I requested them to take a business delegation to Imphal during the Sangai Festival. I am happy to see that the delegation went and there was a business event where the Honorable Chief Ministers of Sagaing Region and Manipur were the Chief guests; certainly business leaders from both sides have made some valuable contacts during that meeting.

The purpose of today’s business meeting is to continue linkages among the business entrepreneurs of both the countries in this excellent common platform; this will surely enhance awareness, help in creating more closer networking and promote economic and trade relations between our two countries. There is a huge potential and scope for joint venture and cross border trading and investment in these sectors as well as some other sectors like – agro industries, oil and gas, power, transport, real estate, communication, IT, livestock production, fishery products, medical tourism,  textile technology,  construction, manufacturing, infrastructure, auto industry, cement, diesel,  gems and jewellery, etc.

Because of geographical proximity, age-old historical, cultural relations, common traditions and experiences, ASEAN factor, frequent  people-to-people exchanges have been taking place between Myanmar and Northeast India.  The visit of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi last year has taken our bilateral relationship to much greater heights. Only in January, on our Republic Day last year, the State Counsellor was in New Delhi for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit; Madam Aung San Suu Kyi said Myanmar-India relations and ASEAN India relations  were tied with closely related traditions since time immemorial, being a kind of relations between regions with cultural similarities. For for India, Myanmar is the Eastern Gateway that will link India with the ASEAN region; at the same time, for ASEAN, Myanmar is the Western Gateway that will link the ASEAN region with India. In other words, Myanmar is the land bridge between India  & ASEAN.

Again only few month back in April, our External Affairs Minister signed seven MOUs during her visit to NPT and one of the most important MOUs was the Agreement on Land Border Crossing, – a landmark in our bilateral relations, further the international land border between both the countries was opened on 8th August last year which is enabling people from both the countries to cross the border with passports and visas; this has given a big boost to our relations so far as trade, tourism, cultural exchange and people to people contact is concerned. There is lot of activity taking place on both sides of the border. Certainly Manipur and Sagaing Region have the potential to develop into an economic corridor between our two countries as both are connected with each other through the common land border between two countries.

The just successfully completed visit of the Honorable President of India has reinforced the tradition of high level interaction between our leaders which included not only bilateral but also the areas of trade, investment, culture, people to people contacts. During this visit the Government of Myanmar announced the visa on arrival facility for Indians, certainly this is going to increase the tourism trade as our PM had already announced a gratis visa facility for Myanmar citizens last year. Also I would like to inform here that we are pursuing the matter with our Ministry in Delhi for the online e-visa facility for travel of Myanmar nationals via the land Border:  Tamu-Moreh and the border pass.

Both sides also discussed about the various connectivity projects which we expect to complete timely; this is certainly going to not only facilitate increase in trade but also the socio economic development  particularly in the Sagaing Region. A coordinated bus service between Mandalay & Imphal (transit at Tamu & Moreh Border) is also under discussion for the smooth movement of people on both sides. This bus too will run through Sagaing region. The air connectivity also needs to be looked into – Imphal-Mandalay-Yangon-Bangkok is the option where there are chances of having reasonably viable passenger load.  The Motor Vehicle Agreement is also under process.

Excellencies, today India is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. In the last four years our Government has undertaken a number of initiatives and introduced a series of reforms to improve the business environment in India. These steps have opened new opportunities for trade & investment in India.  The string of these economic reforms have fetched $ 60 billion Foreign Direct Investment in 2016-17. Companies from Myanmar can also take advantage of these opportunities for trade & investment in India – particularly North East India. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, 2018, there is a significant jump in India’s ranking from 130 to 100 and this year 77; which is the outcome of all round and multi-sectoral reform push of Team India. It has never been easier to do business in India.

On the other hand, the opening of the economy in Myanmar to the global market is strengthening commercial relations.  There has been a significant growth in our economic and commercial ties.  The bilateral trade between India and Myanmar was to the extent of US $ 1605.00 Million during 2017-18, border trade has crossed USD 90 Million dollars.  India is presently the 10th largest investor with an investment of more than USD 740.64 million by 25 Indian companies, mainly in the oil and gas sector. Trade during October 2018 reached to $ 153 million a 60% increase over last October. As per the MOC here Export to India – $ 273 and Import from India $ 753 during April-October 2018.

Myanmar particularly Sagaing Region has a strategic location, abundant natural resources, large number of human resource – young population and many touristic places .  It is suitably placed to develop market linkages with India particularly its north-eastern regions. Manipur and Sagaing Region are the link states between two countries.

In the present scenario, I would like to emphasize that what we have realized is only a part of the potential trade between the two countries.  However, there is immense scope for more trade, investment and economic cooperation between the two economies.  The business environment in Myanmar is changing, Government having more liberal policies; the Government is creating an investment friendly business climate, which is a major positive initiative. The recently enacted Myanmar Investment Law includes major changes to the number of promoted sectors, tax incentives for investing in under developed areas, guarantees protection for business ventures, more clarity and transparency of economic policies and more protected investment environment.

The Companies Act effected in August 2018, allows foreign companies to invest up to 35% in the local companies, go for online registration – more than 41,000 companies re-registered including new registration. The creation of a new Ministry- Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations is likely to play a pivotal role in creating business opportunities and increasing the attractiveness of Myanmar as an investment destination. Foreign banks have been allowed to lend money to local business in US dollars and local currency. Thus all this is generating additional enthusiasm and Myanmar government is planning to make long term investment and giving huge thrust upon healthcare, education, transport and road construction, modification and modernization of railways, electricity, tourism, hospitality and infrastructure and introduce measures to boost the development of small and medium enterprises to generate more employment and thereby resulting in prosperity of its grassroots people. State Investment Commissions have the authority to approve the investment up to US $ 5 million without referring to the MIC. Foreign investment should be able to support SMEs, manufacture products locally, operate in under developed areas and also create employment opportunities. GOM has started focus on supporting and promoting trade, and goal is to triple exports by 2020-21. The Ministry of Commerce here has also removed license requirement for various items of export and import to promote more trade. Another big reform in the economy is foreign business and joint ventures are now allowed to carry out in the retail and wholesale sector, this will attract foreign investment. This is the right time- Indian businessmen have good opportunity to set up joint ventures and promote business between both the countries.

I would urge the leading industrialists from both the countries present here to look for some serious discussion, have fruitful engagement for mutual benefit and identify the sectors they can cooperate in or have investment or business, later today and tomorrow. My sincere thanks to you Excellency – Chief Minister Sagaing Region for gracing the occasion.

I also take this opportunity to thank SDCCI for their whole hearted support in organizing this event.