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South-South Cooperation: India starts a feasibility study for having an FTA with Bolivia

Huma Siddiqui

The government is planning to conduct a feasibility study to explore the possibility of signing Free trade Agreement with landlocked Bolivia.

Highly placed sources confirmed to Financial Express Online that This comes after the recently concluded visit of President Ramnath Kovind to the South American nation where the focus of talks with his counterpart President Evo Morales focused on South-South Co-operation, trade and foreign investments.

The feasibility study is expected to be completed later this year which will then open doors for negotiations between the two countries and will identify products on which the tariffs and other conditions can be lowered and can help in catering to each other s markets.

Both India and Bolivia are keen to expand their trade basket and have agreed to not only consult but to also exchange information to identify sectors that hold potential to strengthen bilateral trade, prioritizing therein value-added products.

To give a further push to economic and commercial engagement, the two countries have agreed to facilitate bilateral investments and, are also encouraging public and private sector cooperation in various sectors especially the infrastructure sector.

According to senior MEA officials, bilateral trade between the two countries in the last calendar year was around $875 million. And from the point of view of Bolivia, India is the third largest market for Bolivia in terms of export and seventh largest trading partner for that country.

Adding, Since both countries are interested in the diversification of trade and industrialization of its mineral resources, a trade agreement in place will help both countries in increasing their bilateral trade.

Indian exports to Bolivia are largely pharmaceutical, vehicles, automobile industrial parts. India is already looking at that country s major lithium reserves which India needs for making batteries for electric vehicles, laptops, solar panels, satellites, and smartphones. There are also large deposits of silver, tin, copper, and gold, which India can buy.

Earlier this year, a high-level twelve-member delegation of representatives from gold companies had visited Bolivia seeking collaboration with the miners and chambers that would help in importing of gold dor bars.

As reported earlier, according to estimates from Bolivia, in 2018, it exported $ 720 million of gold to India (70% of the national gold production), which was followed by gold exports to the UAE that received almost 30% of the Bolivian gold production.

The landlocked nation has reached out to several infrastructure Indian companies with expertise in port construction, hospitals, and schools and in the railways for the coast-to-coast bi-oceanic train corridor project.