Hyderabad, March 5 (IANS) The bilateral trade between India and Latin America is likely to double in five years from the current level of $30 billion, said a senior Indian official Tuesday.
"At the rate at which it is growing in about five years, we should be able to double it. If not, it will be $50 billion," said Dammu Ravi, joint secretary (Latin America and Caribbean) in the ministry of external affairs.
He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on "Opportunities in emerging markets: Latin America and Caribbean".
The Indian companies have so far invested $16 billion in the region, while more companies are exploring opportunities in trade, investment and mining. Ravi said direct shipping, air connectivity, visa on arrival and free trade agreements were some of the steps being taken to boost trade with the region.
Sixty percent of the current bilateral trade is in oil, hydrocarbons, minerals and agriculture commodities but it is now moving into niche area like pharma and IT services.
Underlining the need for direct shipping, he pointed out that it is currently taking 45 days due to transshipments to Europe and Singapore.
"We are working on direct shipping, which will not take more than 30 days. We are talking ministries of commerce and shipping."
Ravi said there was also a proposal for direct air connectivity to the region.
"Indian Airlines can perhaps have direct connection to Panama, where we have large Indian community and which is a hub connecting north and south America," he said adding the target is to launch the direct flight next year.
The joint secretary said they were aiming at visa waiver and requesting all the countries in the region to relax the visa norms by disposing of visa applications of Indians within a day. He pointed out that Indians holding a US visa don't need separate visas for all eight central American countries.
"Now in reciprocity we are planning to give them visa on arrival facility. This facility is already available to 11 countries. We will extend it to more countries," he said. India is also negotiating Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Peru and Mexico.
"We know that when Pacific Alliance takes shape, we will have FTA with Pacific Alliance which include all four countries and the entire area will become a very potent trade region for India."
Jaime Nualart, ambassador of Mexico and chairman, Grouping of Latin American & Caribbean (GRULAC) in his address pointed out that Latin America offer tremendous business opportunities for Indian business community. He said that Mexico and India shared common values for the prosperity of the both nations.
Deepak Bhojwani, former Indian ambassador to Cuba, Colombia and Veneuzela, noted that trade between India and Latin America has increased significantly. He was also of the view that Latin America is being far from India is only myth.
Ambassadors of Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Peru highlighted the business opportunities available in their respective countries.