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Media Briefing at Davos on PM’s ongoing visit to World Economic Forum in Davos

January 24, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing in Davos. As you are aware Prime Minister is in the Davos for the World Economic Forum. Earlier today morning he attended the plenary and delivered the keynote address.

Today, to take us through the program and also the meetings which took place with the Swiss President yesterday and Canadian Prime Minister today, I have with me Secretary (ER) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Vijay Gokhale and also Secretary (DIPP) Shri Rajesh Abhishek. Both of them will brief us on the events which have taken place till now and with this I pass on the floor to Secretary (ER).

Secretary (ER), Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you. Prime Minister has had two bilateral meetings in the last 20 odd hours that he has been in Davos. Last evening he met the President of the Swiss Republic, President Alain Berset. They had a conversation of about one hour, it was an excellent conversation.

Both sides agreed that in the last three meetings that have been there between the Prime Minister and the leaders of Switzerland, substantial progress has been made on a number of areas. President Berset described the relationship with India as very special. He spoke of democracy and diversity as the two values that bind the two countries together.

They exchanged views on how to expand trade and economic cooperation as you we are negotiating the TEPA, the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement, with Switzerland and on that the two leaders had some discussion on how to move forward. Our Prime Minister also expressed satisfaction that the automatic exchange of information would kick-in from January 2019 and said that India is committed to international tax transparency. The two leaders also had a discussion on the Paris Climate Change Accord. The Prime Minster indicated that we were committed to the Paris Climate Change Accord. Prime Minister spoke of his very ambitious plans for renewable energy, 175 GW by 2022, and said that almost one third of this has been achieved. So overall it was a very satisfactory meeting with the President of Switzerland.

Earlier this morning, Prime Minister had a brief meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. As you know the Prime Minister of Canada has been invited to make a State visit to India, he will be making a visit next month. He told the Prime Minister he was looking forward to it, he would be coming with his family. He would be coming with a large business delegation and some Members of Parliament and that he was planning to visit New Delhi as well as several other cities of India.

He spoke about the growth in India Canada relations since he had taken over as the Prime Minister. He referred to the emergence of synergies in a number of areas, of the growth of students from India to Canada, of the rising exports and both prime ministers agreed that during his visit to India we will continue to discuss and strengthen trade and economic relations but would also look at political relations.

In the context of political relations there was a brief discussion between the two prime ministers on the issue of terrorism and in this regard our Prime Minister pointed out that it is important that on the issue of terrorism there is no ambiguity, there is no difference of opinion that both countries must stand firm in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. So with these remarks I’ll request my colleague, the Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to comment on the economic side of the Prime Minister’s engagement.

Secretary (DIPP), Ramesh Abhishekh: Yesterday Prime Minister had an interaction with the 64 CEOs from around the world, 40 of them from other countries and 24 from India. It was over dinner. The total market capitalization of these companies is $3.6 trillion so you can see that it was a very-very important interaction.

15 CEOs expressed their thoughts and suggestions and views. Generally they said that they are very excited by the opportunities that they find in India, the growth opportunities, the future prospects and many of them have very clearly said that they are finding it is getting much easier now to do business. A company like Vistas, they set up their manufacturing plant in India in 15 months, their fastest ever in the world. Companies like IBM and ABB, Unilever, everybody was there. They were very excited about the major structural reforms that the government has done, GST being prime of them. Prime Minister again reiterated that the reform thrust will continue. The ease of doing business will continue with even more momentum because government is totally committed to see that the business environment in the country gets easier.

He has welcomed all the investors to come and invest more in India and of course he has assured them his full support of the government both at the center and the state level doing more and more business in India. Prime Minister also had met many of them earlier and he also recalled that their contribution to growth of technology, innovation and creating jobs in India is highly valued.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think we can also brief them about today’s Prime Minister’s address at the plenary although we have shared the speech on our website and it was carried live but if you could share something that would be great.

Secretary (DIPP): You all would have heard the speech of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and Prime Minister has emphasized the fact that India has always, historically as well as in the contemporary world, played a very positive role in promoting peace, security, fight against climate change, sustainable development. So once again he has pointed out that we are also ready to do more of that in future because our democratic culture, our diversity, the multi-culture society that we have, for us democracy is a way of life. Conflict resolution through dialogue is a way of life for us and it is something that we would like to see happen all around the world.

He has also pointed out to them that open economy that has now been created in India, the great opportunity for investment, ease of doing business and all those great opportunities that India’s growth present to everybody and he has welcomed everybody to do business in India, to visit India and to benefit from what it has to offer in terms health, wellness in addition to wealth creation.

Secretary (ER), Shri Vijay Gokhale: May I just add here one important theme that Prime Minister covered in his address this morning was the concept that he has been advocating for some time now about the world being one family and this was very apt because the central theme of this year’s World Economic Forum is how to move ahead in a fractured world.

Essentially his point was that it is historically, civilizationally, culturally part of India’s DNA that we have lived together as a single family, there has been diversity, there has been tolerance and that we have something to show the world in this regard not only in terms of business but in terms of politics and culture as well. So I think this was the underlying theme of his speech in the World Economic Forum’s inaugural address this morning in addition of course to flagging a number of achievements the government has made.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sirs. We managed to squeeze in this briefing between Prime Minister’s very busy engagements but we have time for few questions before we go for another event. Question: You talked about automatic exchange of information as well as the TEPA, if you could elaborate a bit more on them as well as more steps which are planned in future with Switzerland to enhance transparency and also there were some concerns about gold etc. for the TEPA, so were this issues raised?

Secretary (ER), Shri Vijay Gokhale: There was no discussion in such detail. Essentially both the President of Switzerland and the Prime Minister of India agreed that we would now have another round of discussions on TEPA, that there were issues on both sides. On our side particularly issues which related to access for skilled personnel as well as data secure status which is important for our information technology companies. The Swiss raised some issues as well and essentially both sides said that there was a desire to move ahead and that it required some amount of compromise from both sides. So I think the discussion was very positive on TEPA.

On the automatic exchange of information, that is a mechanism which will kick-in on January 1, 2019 but the Prime Minister’s main intention was to convey that India is committed to International tax transparency and that this is part of our efforts to fight corruption. But of course at that level details are not gone into usually.

Question: Any commitments made by the CEOs, what are the kind of investments that are coming, have they made any firm commitments?

Secretary (DIPP): See, yesterday it was an interaction not for seeking any particular commitment, there were no specifics as such but many of them have shared that they have major investments plan for India. They have not said that we are going to invest these many dollars in this much time but they have shared many of their different plans as well.

Question Contd.: Anyone you want to underline?

Secretary (DIPP): There are a few companies which specifically said that they are having major investment plans. Question: Yesterday the United States announced that it will be imposing new tariffs on import of solar panels and washing machines. Just in the light of what prime minister said this morning about protectionism, can you tell me what his reaction or his government’s reaction is to that?

Secretary (DIPP): I don’t think we are specifically commenting on specific development as such. The theme has been, shared future in a fractured world, this was the theme of the World Economic Forum, which is a much more general topic. On specific things there have been no specific comments.

Question: Something that the Prime Minister said in his speech this morning, it sounded similar to what the Chines President said this time last year in Davos, he talked about closing the windows but wanting still there be air and wind of outside contact. Was that, for any of you gentlemen, response kind of conscious echo of what the Chinese President said last year?

Secretary (ER), Shri Vijay Gokhale: That is a very famous quotation. They are the words of Mahatma Gandhi, so he was in fact quoting those words and I think the intention was to say that we need to keep the world open for business and not get swept off our feet by any particular trend that takes place.

Question Contd.: Was he in any way seeking to align himself with China on this issue?

Secretary (ER), Shri Vijay Gokhale: I think he was speaking for India.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much. Thank you all for joining. Have a good day.
(Concludes)

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