Mr. Ma Zhanwu, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Kolkata, addressed the interactive session on the topic of "Keys to Growing India-China Commerce & Trade", which was organized by the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) in Kolkata, India on 22 February 2017. Mr Ramesh Agarwal, Senior Vice President of MCCI; Mr Olaf Iverson, German Consul General in Kolkata; Ms Chaitali Das, President of Rotary Club of Calcutta Millennium; and over 60 members of MCCI and journalists from mainstream media were present.
Mr Agarwal thanked Mr. Ma for the interaction, and acknowledged that India and China were the world's fastest growing economies and the successful visits by the leaders of two countries have further strengthened and deepened the relationship. He drew attention to the trade and investment relations between the two countries, including import and export of rice, gems, precious metals and fertilizers, FDI in automobiles, metallurgical industry and infrastructure development. He recognized that cooperation in railway modernization and tourism can further enhance the economic ties between India and China. He appreciated the efforts made by the Government of West Bengal and the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata towards the successful interactions between the delegations from China and business community in India at the Bengal Global Business Summit in January 2017.
Mr Ma appreciated the remarks made by Mr Agarwal and commented that China and and East East, West Bengal in particular, have historically shared strong relations. People like Hueing Tsang, Dr Bijoy Basu and Rabindranath Tagore stand as pillars of strong friendship and cooperation between East India and China. He pointed out that Tagore is more read in China than in India. For the first time ever, the complete works of Tagore were translated into Chinese and published last year, and released at the Seminar on Tagore and China on 7 May 2017. Cheena Bhawan in Viswa Bharati University has become an attractive destination for Chinese companies to recruit new blood. This has encouraged more and more students to learn about the Chinese language and culture.
With regards to trade, Mr Ma recognized that while the bilateral import and export have been growing throughout the years, India's export to China has not been as fast as China's export to India. He hoped MCCI members would provide legal and professional advice to the Chinese businessmen willing to do business in India. He envisioned that the investment from China could compensate for the trade imbalance between the two countries and requested MCCI to suggest Indian partners to further expand Chinese direct investment in India, which in 2016 grew by 718%. He also suggested that certain Indian products would have good market prospects if exported to China, such as the Dant Kanti toothpaste, which is very popular among his friends.
Mr Ma said the Chinese side has invited Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to visit Jiangsu Province and Yunnan Province to further the economic and cultural relations.
Lastly, Mr Ma mentioned three important areas for the two Central Governments to focus upon- first, work to sign China-India Friendship Treaty so as to further enhance mutual trust and cooperation; second, to start negotiations on FTA between India and China; third, to combine India's 'Act East Policy' with China's 'One Belt One Road' Initiative.
Consul General Ma Zhanwu later interacted with the journalists and addressed their questions. The journalists were curious if the IT professionals were welcome in China. Mr Ma remarked that the Indian IT graduates were extremely intelligent and could work closely with their Chinese counterparts. On the issue of bullet trains, Mr Ma said that China has the experience and expertise of building bullet trains in all kinds of terrains and in a most cost-effective way. It has the full capacity to introduce them in India in a massive way. He also stated China's positions on counter-terrorism and NSG-related issues, saying that some media reports were inaccurate or even misleading.
The audience were very appreciative of Mr Ma's comments, and continued to interact with him after the session was pronounced over.
Over 20 newspapers, such as The Statesman, Business Standard, The Asian Age, Aawami News, Andndabazar Patrika, carried reports on his remarks the next day.