Sunil Mittal may replace Mistry as co-Chair of India-UK CEO Forum

Business Economy Finance
(Last Updated On: November 3, 2016)

Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal is likely to soon replace the erstwhile Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry as the co-Chair of the India-UK CEO Forum. The forum is an influential platform of top business leaders of the two nations. It provides inputs to the governments on measures to boost bilateral trade and investment.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is learnt to have cleared Mittal’s name as suggested by the forum’s nodal agencies in India — the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and the industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), multiple sources privy to the development told The Hindu. The moves comes ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s maiden visit to India from November 6-8.

Bharti Enterprises did not respond to an email sent by The Hindu. CII President Naushad Forbes said he cannot comment till a final decision is taken on the matter. Asked whether the feud at Tata Group will cast a shadow over the UK PM’s India visit or hurt India-UK ties, Forbes said, “I don’t think it will. Everyone is watching (the developments). But it is an internal matter of the Tatas which they have to address. I don’t think it will affect their commitment to the UK or their UK interests.”

WORKING GROUP ON TRADE

Theresa May’s trip will see bilateral economic ties being upgraded with the setting up of a new ‘working group’ on trade under the India-UK Joint Economic Trace Committee (JETCO), the sources said. JETCO is the government-level forum for addressing and resolving bilateral trade and investment issues.

However, it will also be the first bilateral engagement where the Indian government will be faced with the fallout of Tata Group’s recent troubles. The sources said the PMO is keen to ensure that the shake-up at the top level of India’s largest conglomerate does not have a major impact on India-UK trade and investment ties. Tata companies in the UK are in sectors including automobiles, hotels, suites & residences, chemicals, IT & communications, beverages and steel.

According to a recent Grant Thornton-CII report (‘India Tracker 2016’), “the total turnover of the fastest-growing Indian companies in the UK has risen 18 per cent (year-on-year, based on published accounts filed as at 29 February 2016) – from £22 billion to over £26 billion.” Of the 62 such companies (meeting the ‘10 per cent-plus growth’ criteria), Bharti Airtel (UK) Ltd — owned by Bharti Airtel Ltd — grew fastest with an 886 per cent growth rate, it said.

The report further said: “In turnover terms, while the Tata Group still dominates the list – at £21.8 billion, up from £19.3 billion last year – its share is down to 83 per cent this year compared to 90 per cent last year.” It added that, “to some extent this reflects the growing size of other Indian companies in the UK.” The report said Indian companies employ around 1.1 lakh people in the UK, adding that “Tata Group remains by far the largest employer, with more than 69,000 employees… although this figure is likely to fall following Tata Steel’s recent high-profile decision to sell its UK business.”

Though the terms and conditions regarding Britain’s withdrawal arrangement from the European Union are likely to be finalised only by 2019, British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox had in August — just two months after the Brexit referendum in June – visited India. Fox had then met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and commerce & industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and among other things, discussed a proposal for an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral trade and investment. Since 2011-12, annual trade between India and the UK has been stagnant at around $14-15 billion. The sources said the proposed new ‘working group’ on trade will take forward discussions on the industry’s demand “to set out the case for a comprehensive UK-India Economic Partnership/Co-operation Agreement (in other words, an FTA) focusing on greater trade, investment and labour mobility.” According to a recent survey conducted by the UK-India Business Council and the CII, 89.06 per cent of the respondents backed the proposal for an India-UK FTA.

The India-UK TECH Summit — comprising events on technology, entrepreneurship & innovation, higher education, design and intellectual property – will be inaugurated during the British PM’s India trip. In bilateral talks, India is likely to take up the UK’s “curbs” on skilled foreign workers saying it was mainly hurting the Indian IT sector. Talks are also expected to be held to deepen ties in sectors including defence and aerospace, travel and tourism, healthcare, consumer goods, financial services and Small and Medium Enterprises. Britain — which has offered to develop Amravati and Pune (in Maharashtra) and Indore (in Madha Pradesh) as smart cities — is keen to discuss digital solutions for smart & sustainable cities.

Source: The Hindu

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