India’s G20 Presidency and Asian Trade Implications
India’s bilateral trade with all its G20 Asian partners are at record levels
India has begun the 2023 Presidency of the G20 nations, which includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States and the European Union. The G20 members represent around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis, the Chairman and Founding Partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, established the firms India practice in 2007 as part of an early example of a ‘China Plus One’ model. The practice is now a significant part of the firms’ Asian operations and has a significant presence in both Delhi and Mumbai.
He was asked by the Council of EU Chambers of Commerce in India to pass commentary as part of a distinguished panel of experts, including BDO, Thyssen Krupp, and Deutsche Bank, to discuss the implications of the India Union 2023 Budget, which was released on February 1. That discussion took place on Thursday (February 2) at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai.
This is what he had to say when asked “How are global economic players viewing India following the budget? How is India a preferred destination for international businesses due to the national investment policies?”
“India has begun the 2023 Presidency of the G20 nations, which includes the G7 nations together with numerous Asian countries. As we learned from yesterday’s IMF forecast, India and China are expected to be the major global growth drivers during the year. In fact this also extends to ASEAN and the Middle East. All are expected to perform rather better than the Western economies. Therefore I will provide some updates on India’s trade relations with its Asian cousins rather than the West as you are all members of the EU Chambers and will be well aware of India’s relations with these nations. The G20 includes India’s Asian trade partnerships with China, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye.
India trade with China is now over US$100 billion for first time. Indian investors should consider access to the RCEP and CPTPP markets via China and China’s growing domestic market. China’s middle class is 450 million and they will add another 400 million by 2030. Despite political issues, the trade picture is robust and increasing. The Communist Party of China’s own recent policies, enacted last year, show specific plans and investment infrastructures and policies are in place to help foreign investors export more to Chinese consumers. This is a tremendous opportunity in fact for India as Western nations have tended to be Taiwan supportive and are leaving gaps in the competition for Chinese consumers as a result. If Western governments and companies are reluctant to trade with China, this provides an opportunity for Indian companies to step in and take that market share.
India-Indonesian bilateral trade is also at its highest ever levels. It reached US$26 billion in 2022 and is scheduled by both governments to rise to US$50 billion by 2025. That is a significant and ambitious growth target to meet. However, Indonesia also has a significant and growing middle class consumer base, and India has a free trade arrangement with the country via its ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Achieving these 2025 goals however will require a more specific trade agreement with Indonesia and additional trade corridors between the two countries should be encouraged.
India-Japan bilateral trade is also at record levels – US$20 billion in 2022, however US$15 billion of that is Japanese exports to India, meaning there is scope for improvement. There is a CEPA agreement, but a Free Trade Agreement needs working on between India and Japan in order to mutually open up Japanese markets. A short cut is accessing this via RCEP. Indian companies establishing an legal entity in China for example, which is also an RCEP member, can utilize China’s RCEP protocols to access the RCEP nations. These include Japan as well as Australia, New Zealand, the ASEAN nations and South Korea. I encourage Indian businesses to be more inventive when it comes to overseas investments and to look at other regional trade agreements that an Indian investor maybe able to piggyback onto.
Three quarters of Russia is in Asia, so I include the country in these remarks. Russia will continue to be an energy play with India, although opportunities in non-energy sectors in shipbuilding, aviation manufacturing and maintenance, agriculture, high-tech, and consumer goods is also developing. A Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia as well as Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is currently being negotiated. Direct Shipping routes are increasing in use to Vladivostok while the INSTC route via Iran’s Chabahar Port and Caspian Sea access to Russia also provides access.
Russia is a bit of a unique case at present as the European Union has stopped selling goods to Russia, leaving a market gap. There are numerous areas that Indian exporters can now access without competition from European exporters, one example being alcohol. European stocks of wines and spirits are now being used up in Russia, and Russian supermarkets are now stocking wines from replacement markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. As Indian wines have grown in stature over the past 15-20 years, brands such as Sula, Grover, and Fratelli have an opportunity here. The Indian whisky industry also now includes some premium brands, and these should also find their way onto Russian shelves. Many Russians drink whisky! There will be payment connectivity problems and Ruble-Rupee trade corridors are still in process but Indian trade with Russia is growing and with patience will boom. There are opportunities here.
Saudi Arabia is set to be the fastest growing major economy in 2023 with GDP rates at 9% plus. The Gulf overall is booming with huge hi tech capabilities, with Dubai for example developing as a crypto and digital trade hub. India has a booming hi-tech industry and quality partnerships and investments can be found in the Middle East. Concerning India and Saudi Arabia, bilateral trade is also at record highs and hit US$43 billion in 2022. Energy flows from the Gulf to India but there is a growing need for Indian agriculture. More needs to be down to encourage India trade, including the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council. I mentioned India’s alcohol industry, Dubai just cancelled the 30% import tax on alcohol. Again, Indian exporters should be looking at these developments.
India-Turkiye bilateral trade is also at a record high, reaching US$11 billion in 2022. But again, more needs to be done to encourage Indian exports. The auto sector and agricultural sectors have opportunities here. There is no trade agreement in place, and this needs attention. Turkey is a large, nearby consumer market with active commercial ties aligned with India’s in the Central Asian markets. There is plenty of room for collaboration.
In summary, these are exciting times, and there is pent up demand, but more needs to be done in terms of concluding trade agreements. Foreign investors need two things as well as market access: predictability and sustainability. During uncertain global economic times, India can win by providing such a corporate environment.
Foreign investment into India
Overall, we feel that the FDI environment in India is about right, it is balanced. My firm deals with FDI into India. In 2022, we achieved record high revenues from foreign investors into India and we see that the foreign investment policies in terms of attracting investment into India are working. Our January 2023 figures this year are 40% above target already, we are off to a good start in the New Year of the Rabbit.
However, to increase this, there is a need for greater marketing that is devolved from politics. Investors do not find it necessary to be bombarded with political personages images so prominently on investment materials; in fact, it can be off-putting as it implies personal approval is needed and there is a lack of corporate governmental infrastructure. Business is business. India should market itself overseas with better and more appropriate imagery about India as a nation as opposed to any individual.
A lot also needs to be done in bringing trade deals to fruition, and this will greatly assist not just with the overall trade picture but crucially, in terms of developing Indian exports at the same time.
Thank you for listening. Namaste”
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has thirty years’ experience of handling foreign investment into Asia and has offices in Delhi and Mumbai.
For professional assistance in India, including regional comparisons, marketing studies, business plan development, legal incorporation, tax planning and advisory, compliance and ongoing services please email the firm at email@example.com
Our ‘Doing Business In India 2023’ Guide may be downloaded here.
- India’s Economy at a Glance: Trends and Outlook for 2023
- India’s Green Hydrogen Economy: What’s in it for Investors?
India Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in Delhi and Mumbai. Readers may write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more support on doing business in in India.
We also maintain offices or have alliance partners assisting foreign investors in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, Germany, and the United States, in addition to practices in Bangladesh and Russia.
- Previous Article Highlights of the Indian Economic Survey 2023
- Next Article Integrating with Global Value Chains: Sector Opportunities and Challenges in India