Our Bureau

Bangalore, Jan. 18

IRELAND'S largest ever trade mission to any country - dubbed i2i - has come calling on promising Indian visitors, partnerships and trade. Mainly on its radar are the Mumbai film industry, information technology, education, biotechnology, food and drink. And the trump: the rich tax incentive that is the envy of the rest of Europe.

"Bollywood is very much on the agenda, we are interested," the Irish Prime Minister, Mr Bertie Ahern, who launched the six-day, three-city i2i (Ireland to India) mission in Bangalore, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Ireland already has provision for incentives topping euros 15 million and it will make this package even more attractive to the Indian film industry, the Arts, Tourism & Sports Minister, Mr John O'Donoghue, who was jokingly introduced as Ireland's "Minister for Bollywood," said.

Apart from being an attractive film location with its exotic land- and seascapes, Ireland also has trained crew and would be keen on joint film productions, he added.

Mr Ahern who is heading a team of three ministers, nearly 100 companies and 120 executives, some even from the British-ruled Northern Ireland, said a common area of interest for both the countries was ICT (information technology, communications and telecommunication), in which both excelled globally; Ireland aimed to be at the top in Europe.

Small Irish IT companies were looking to expand into locations like India.

In spite of European debates for harmonisation of taxes, his government would continue to woo overseas industries with the "straight-line tax system" that includes a relatively low corporation tax and R&D allowances.

Much copied by others, "Ireland is not a bad model" as a lower tax rate means higher "tax take", Mr Ahern said.

The growth between India and Ireland was parallel but their trade at euro 262 million (for 2004) and growing at 14 per cent annually was not good enough; the two countries could work together on a lot of areas such as tourism, films and education.

The mission, according to him, was "the first step in what we hope will be a structured programme in bringing our two countries together economically. We could do a lot more business. This mission is to develop more partnerships."

In Delhi, Mr Ahern is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and officially open the Irish pavilion on Thursday at the IFOWS - India International Food and Wine Show.

Science Foundation Ireland is slated to sign an MoU first with Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and in Delhi on Thursday with the Indian National Science Academy (INSA).

The Irish IT and biotech agencies are also sealing networking partnerships and mutual visit programmes with Nasscom in Delhi and the Association for Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE) in Bangalore.

On Tuesday, the Dublin-based Astec Global Consultancy Ltd and the Bangalore-based Erin Consultants signed an MoU for collaboration in promoting IT and telecom product and services in the two companies; industrial coffee equipment major Marco Beverage Systems and Chennai-based Pradeep Stainless announced a marketing tie-up.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 19, 2006)
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