International: Prime Minister in India to ‘open trade doors’

Prime Minister David Cameron in Mumbai, India

Prime Minister David Cameron in Mumbai, India - Credit: PA

David Cameron arrived in Mumbai today at the head of the largest trade delegation taken overseas by a prime minister, on a mission to “open doors for British business” in India.

Among the party of more than 100 joining Mr Cameron on his second visit to India as PM were representatives of major companies like Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and BP, small businesses, universities, football’s Premier League, the London Underground and nine parliamentarians.

Mr Cameron wants to use the three-day visit, during which he will meet prime minister Manmohan Singh and president Pranab Mukherjee, to forge closer links between British business and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Expected initiatives to encourage trade include an easing of visa conditions for Indian businessmen visiting the UK.

In an interview shortly before arriving, Mr Cameron addressed business concerns about the difficulty of obtaining visas, telling the Hindustan Times: “I think there’s more we can do here and that’s an area where I hope we can put an even more attractive offer on the table during this trip.”

He will confirm plans for a new pan-India network of British business centres, due to open by 2017 backed by £8million of Government money, and is expecting deals to be sealed with Indian investors which will create more than 500 new jobs and safeguard 2,000 more in the UK.

But he is also hoping to get to know India better, telling the Hindustan Times he intended to sample some curries - which he likes “pretty hot” - in the home of the spicy dish, and catch some Bollywood movies during his flights.

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Speaking to the paper, he faced questions over the uncertainty felt in the Indian business community about Britain’s future as a “gateway to Europe” following his promise of a referendum on European Union (EU) membership and concerns that his ambition of getting net immigration down to “tens of thousands” a year will make it more difficult for businessmen and students to come to the UK.

But he rejected suggestions that his drive to double UK-India trade by 2015 had lost momentum since he made the Asian sub-continent his first foreign destination after taking power in 2010, insisting he was “on track” to meet the target.

“Frankly, Britain did neglect this relationship during the first decade of this century,” said Mr Cameron. “But under my government we’re determined to turn that around.

“Trade grew at over 20% in 2010 and 2011. We’re reaching out beyond the biggest cities, with the biggest diplomatic footprint of any country in India.

“But I’m not complacent. There is always more we can do. And that’s why I’m bringing the largest trade mission any British prime minister has ever taken anywhere in the world.

“As India grows, it’s going to need more schools; more hospitals; better transport links; greener energy supply. There will be more consumers wanting more retail goods.

“Britain can do all of these things and more. So, I come to India upbeat and confident about what Britain has to offer, and ready to match the vibrancy and dynamism that exists all across India.”

Mr Cameron is expected to use his visit to explore the prospects for reviving a bid to sell the Eurofighter - made by a UK-German-Spanish-Italian consortium including BAE Systems - to the Indian air force, after President Francois Hollande failed last week to clinch the deal for France’s Dassault Aviation, which was previously chosen as preferred bidder.

He will also send a message to Indian students that there are “no limits” on the number who can come to learn at UK universities or stay on in Britain in graduate-level jobs.

Transport for London is expected to agree close co-operation on transport planning with authorities in both Hyderabad and Mumbai, where there are plans to build a 90-mile underground train network.

Croydon-based Mott Macdonald has already won a contract as design engineer for six stations on the £2billion Hyderabad metro project.

Businesses accompanying the Prime Minister have been chosen to represent eight key sectors where the Government believes UK strengths match India’s economic requirements - infrastructure; financial and professional services; innovation and research; industry and advanced manufacturing; energy; health; education; and vocational skills.

Mr Cameron said leading trade delegations was “a vital part of my job” and his first priority as PM was ensuring that Britain succeeds in the “global race” for prosperity.

“We have to get out there, make the case for Britain and open doors for British business,” He said.

With plans for £645 billion worth of spending over five years on infrastructure and £92 billion on healthcare, as well as a quadrupling of electricity capacity, India “needs a partner that can support its ambition”, said the PM.

“It wants its business to have unrivalled access to European and global markets, and its students to get the best education in the world.

“Britain can do all of these things and more. The companies and organisations in this delegation are uniquely placed to meet India’s demands.”

Mr Cameron will kick off his visit today by addressing workers at Unilever’s Indian headquarters, before meeting major Mumbai investors in the UK.

Investment deals expected to be confirmed in parallel to the visit include an Ashok Leyland research centre in Warwickshire; expansion of Polaris computing services in Belfast; 70 new staff at Hinduja’s TalkTalk in Preston; a new International India Centre at the University of East London; and 300 jobs at a Tata delivery centre in Liverpool.

Meanwhile, plans will be announced for Brit Health Care of Wolverhampton to open a centre in Delhi, Benoy to design a shopping mall in Bangalore, Intercontinental to open 13 new hotels in India and Porvair to design and build filtration systems at the world’s largest oil refining complex in Jamnagar