New Delhi: Easing of procedural hurdles for work visas and paving the way for a comprehensive bilateral trade pact will be the focus of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma`s official parleys Tuesday during a three-day visit to China.
According to senior officials here, the commerce minister, already in China, will seek much greater access for Indian companies to the market of a country that has become India`s largest trading partner with two-way shipments valued at $45 billion.
"India is obviously concerned that the balance of trade is heavily skewed in China`s favour -- as high as $14 billion. So, our minister is expected to focus on easing of barriers, especially non-tariff barriers," said one official.
"We are also aware of the issues involving employment visas for Chinese workers here. We hope some form of mechanism can be talked about," the official said, adding it could be in the form of a percentage of Chinese workers per project.
The remarks come against the backdrop of Indian companies, which have roped in Chinese firms for their projects as partners or contractors, complaining that delays and denial of temporary employment visas to Chinese workers were delaying their execution.
Among those with whom Sharma will hold official talks in Beijing is his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming. He will also interact with representatives of Indian companies that have there presence in China.
The two ministers will also participate in the eighth round of the Joint Economic Group between India and China Tuesday, an initiative that failed to gain ground since its last meeting in March 2006. A comprehensive trade pact is high on the group`s agenda.
Sharma is also scheduled to address the India-China Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum that brings together top government and business leaders from the two countries.
Those accompanying the minister include Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar and top officials from the ministries of animal husbandry, agriculture, industry, chemicals and information technology.
Coinciding with the visit, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has also dispatched an 11-member delegation to Shanghai and Beijing, led by its president Harsh Pati Singhania.
"Indian industry and business organisations have identified several constraints in promoting their exports to China," the chamber said in a statement, adding these had been spelt out to Indian interlocutors before the minister`s visit.
"Among these are: Custom procedures, standards, certification, regulatory practices and quantitative restrictions. Perhaps, these hindrance from China have been partly responsible for this volatile nature of export growth of India with China."