Chinese premier tells Indian business leaders of need for greater economic ties

NEW DELHI – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Indian business leaders Tuesday that developing stronger economic ties between their two nations would have huge benefits for both sides.

Li spoke a day after holding meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during which the two leaders played down a recent border dispute and stressed the aim of forging deeper co-operation.

Li told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday that India and China were both enormous markets with incredible potential for growth.

“If every one of our combined 2.5 billion population would buy a new mobile phone, it would blow up the order lists of IT manufacturers and operators in the world,” Li said.

He said the two nations’ strengths complement each other, with India having an edge in information technology and software, while China is undergoing a rapid expansion in manufacturing and textiles.

China can also help India’s drive to improve its infrastructure, he said.

“At present, we both face the heavy tasks of developing the economy, improving people’s lives and reinvigorating the country. In seeking great neighbourly relations and common development, we will not just benefit our own peoples but also create new opportunities for other Asian countries,” he said.

Li and Singh had expressed hope they could increase their trade from $61.5 billion last year to $100 billion by 2015. But the current trade is heavily skewed in China’s favour, and Li said he was willing to allow Indian products greater access to Chinese markets.

“I’m confident that we have the ability to mitigate the trade imbalance between our two countries. China never has the intention of pursuing a trade surplus,” he said.

Li’s trip to India, his first visit abroad since becoming premier, was part of an outreach mission by the new Chinese leadership to large emerging economies aimed at balancing Beijing’s fraught ties with the United States.

He and Singh pledged Monday to work together for regional stability and economic growth and said they would try to resolve a lingering border dispute, which flared last month when India accused Chinese troops of crossing deep into Indian territory and setting up camp.

Both leaders said they agreed that preserving peace along the border was crucial to maintaining growth and asked mediators from both countries to work toward a framework for reaching a settlement. The two sides have held 15 rounds of fruitless border talks over the past decade.

Li stressed Tuesday that maintaining peace would help his nation focus on development at home.