India eyes broadband project


    India may get preferential tariff on rice going to the Philippines and has expressed interest in investing in the country’s infrastructure program including the government’s national broadband project.

    In his speech at the Joint Webinar of the Federation of Indian Commerce and Industry (FICC) and the India Business Forum last Friday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez announced the likelihood of an adjustment in the tariff rate of rice, which will benefit India, a major exporter of the commodity.

    Shambu Kumaran, India’s ambassador to the Philippines, in the same event expressed thanks to the country’s offer for an an easier access route to rice from India, “rather than round tripping through other destinations .”

    “I believe (rice tariff) will help with food security (in the Philippines),” Kumaran told the forum.

    India and the Philippines recently drew up the terms of reference for setting up the negotiating committee on a preferential trade agreement, which according to Kumaran is the first such negotiation that India is undertaking.

    “This is a very significant and positive development. We look forward to an early response and formation of this committee ,” Kumaran added.

    India and the Philippines also had a focused event on infrastructure cooperation where the response from Indian companies has been encouraging.

    “ I believe there will be a very strong platform for engagement in the entire infrastructure sector. And we would like to carry that conversation forward into new areas like energy especially renewable energy, and also the digital economy in particular the national broadband project, but also a broader conversation (on) IT (information technology) services,” Kumaran said.

    Aside from rice, Kumaran said India wants to look at technology partnerships in agriculture and integrated farming practices that are ecologically sustainable and commercially viable.

    Aseem Roy, director of IBF, identified challenges when it comes to ease of doing business in the Philippines.

    Roy said IBF is proposing the following: make all expenses in response to COVID permissible for tax deduction especially as revenues have not increased; removal of recurring approval of income tax holidays which leads delays and eventually penalties for corporations; and a clear vaccine roadmap for companies so they can expedite expansion plans.

    In 2020, India was the Philippines’ 14th top trading partner, its 13th top export market, and its 13th foremost import supplier.

    India was also the Philippines 15th top investment partner in 2019.

    Despite India’s non-participation in the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership, the Philippines assured Indian firms will still benefit with the deal through the Philippines. – Irma Isip