100 British firms head for India to signal business as usual

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : British Business Minister Lord Peter Mandelson is to lead a 100-strong business delegation to India next week, saying the two countries must not allow the economic downturn to undermine their strong trade ties.

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Mandelson will lead a team that includes civil nuclear players AMEC and Rolls Royce, infrastructure companies Arup and Benoy, the world’s largest law firm Clifford Chance, energy major Cairn, technology and engineering firm GKN, telecom multinational Vodafone and Standard Chartered bank.

The Jan 19-23 visit will take the team to New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune for discussions that Mandelson hopes will lead to deals even in the current economic slowdown.

“The UK and India are now facing many similar challenges. While we both are rightly geared towards tackling the effects of the global downturn, we must also strive to position our economies as leaders during the upturn,” the British minister said.

“We must not let the current economic downturn undermine the strong business relations that the UK and India have worked so hard to build. We need to identify key sectors where Indian and UK companies can work more closely together. I am convinced our efforts today will set us in good stead for tomorrow,” he added.

A senior Indian diplomat in London said Mandelson was in a “very upbeat mood” and, as former European Union Trade Commissioner, was slated to discuss the Doha Round with Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath.

Mandelson will also meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and RBI Governor D. Subbarao.

With Law and Justice Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj, he will jointly launch a guide for Indian law firms on how to set up in Britain.