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Friday, May 24, 2002

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Luxembourg keen to boost investments: Envoy

G. Srinivasan

Mr Paul Steinmetz, Ambassador of Luxembourg in India.


ALTHOUGH bilateral trade between India and Luxembourg is tilted in favour of the latter, Luxembourg, a tiny country in the heart of Europe, is keen on boosting trade and investment volume with India, says the country's envoy to India, Mr Paul Steinmetz.

In an interview to Business Line the new envoy, here since March with the opening of an Embassy in India, said that his country exported goods worth 12.5 million euro to India and imports from India to Luxembourg amounted to 7.3 million euro in 2001.

"We increase the overall volume of trade and we rebalance somewhat exports from India since I am here not only to promote exports from Luxembourg and investment from India to Luxembourg which is the traditional mission of Ambassador. We need to invest in India and I should help Indian companies too if they want to export and of course, I am already helping Luxembourg companies which are keen on investing in India," he said.

Mr Steinmetz said that he had been talking to a company that is active in building cranes for lifting construction blocks to be used in cleaning windows in skyscrapers which is "a high-tech mechanical work."

The Luxembourg company was thinking of buying an Indian company if "the Indian mission in Belgium should inquire about it and take this up to help Luxembourg industry, I will offer them all help in this regard."

Luxembourg cargo airline, Cargo-Lux, is flying to Chennai, West Asia and on to Singapore and is doing "a brisk business."

Mr Steinmetz said that like SAIL and Tata Steel, Luxembourg is the home of the leading steel group in the world, Arcelor, which is the result of a merger last year between Arbed (Spanish), Usinor (French) and Luxembourgish (Aceralia).

This mega company specialises in renovating high-furnaces and has developed special devices which are less-polluting and less energy-intensive and it has just completed a project in Jamshedpur (Bihar) which would be inaugurated in a couple of weeks.

Indian investment in Luxembourg is small and there is one Indian company that is importing chains from South-East Asia and re-exporting to German machine tool makers.

He said that more than two-third of Luxembourg's exports to India comprised machines, engineering items and other equipment such as batteries. Imports from India constitute almost 50 per cent metals, raw materials such as iron ore, besides textile items.

The envoy said, "As this is not enough and we need to develop trade, my focus will be on automobile components, high-tech devices for aeroplanes and railway carriages/wagons.

Asked specifically as to whether a highly service-oriented economy such as Luxembourg would absorb more IT personnel and software solution providers from India, the envoy said, "We do have a policy of allowing Indian experts even in individual company for its software production needs.

However, he said, "as a general rule there are tough conditions such as minimum salary and it is difficult for Indians to get into Luxembourg to do this kind of job.

Indian companies do marketing inside Luxembourg for Luxembourg companies to get contracts to do work inside India. This is somewhat acceptable."

He hastened to add, "We don't have an immigration problem. Luxembourg is part of the European Union and the borders are open. That is why we can't do as we wish. We have to consult our partners and they do have immigration problems."

Mr Steinmetz said that in the short time in which he had been observing trends in Indian economy, it was "a place with huge market but you need to be sure in which States you invest and in which sector you invest."

High interest cost and tariffs and labour laws were some of the worrisome aspects for foreign investors. He cited how Chinaware, a sort of luxury items widely used in star-hotels the world over, could not be used in Indian hotel chains like Oberoi as the import tariff is prohibitive.

Luxembourg's leading satellite company, SES, which operates Astra satellites has merged with GE Americom into SES Global, which thus became the leading satellite operator in the world. Astra-sat was being used by Star TV to beam programmes into India and the potential for satellite-linked co-operation between the two countries need to be explored further for the future, he added.

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