Indian firms eye base in the Netherlands, post-Brexit

Amiti Sen/Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on October 13, 2019

Visit of the Dutch royal couple this week will usher in new phase in bilateral ties

With the Netherlands ready to replace the UK, post-Brexit, as the hub for Indian investments into the EU, the country is optimistic about deepening bilateral ties with New Delhi.

Building stronger economic ties with India will be an important part of of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima’s agenda on their five-day visit to the country this week just ahead of Brexit.

The country’s Ambassador to India, Marten van den Berg, shared with BusinessLine, his thoughts on the existing cooperation between the two countries in areas of trade, investments, education, water management and research, and the areas for future course for cooperation. Excerpts:

What should we expect from the royal couple visit to India in terms of boosting bilateral ties?

We will try to achieve a new phase in our bilateral cooperation. In the current visit of the royal couple, the economic part is very much focused on healthcare, water, agriculture, horticulture, and maritime development. The technology summit is central to our economic agenda. There is a lot of interest among Dutch companies and more than 150 companies are part of the trade delegation. There is also a big cultural dimension to the visit.

With the Brexit scheduled soon, how do you see the dynamics of economic cooperation changing between India and the Netherlands?

We see Indian companies showing big interest in making the Netherlands their European head office. That is because if you want to be in the EU, you can no longer be in the UK as Brexit creates trade and investment barriers between the UK and the 27 countries in the bloc. A lot of shipments from India to the rest of Europe is anyway passing through the Rotterdam port. We do see an increase in interest and investment proposals going to the Netherlands instead of the UK.

In the longer run, companies will no longer produce in the UK but move production facilities or set up new facilities in EU countries. And the Netherlands is open for such investments. It is also likely that you will see a shift in trade.

With no progress in the India-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, what are the other options for increasing trade and investment flows between the two?

Both sides are looking at having at least an economic dialogue to see how we can further strengthen ties, open up markets, deal with investment protection issues and tariffs. The economic dialogue is also important in terms of how to deal with global trade tensions including what is happening at the World Trade Organization as both India and the EU support a multilateral rule based system.

Do you think the investment climate in India is better with its ranking in the World Bank index of ease of doing business improving?

You have to see it from the long-term perspective and not just in terms of movement from one year to another year. What we do see is an improvement in the business climate. We do see Dutch companies looking for investment opportunities and expanding their activities and investments. So, in the long term there is a confidence that India is improving its business climate. Of course, we sometimes face problems in terms of regulations, complying to local requirements and standards and issues on tariffs and public procurement. But then we have open dialogues with Indian government on these topics. So, in the long term we see the Indian business climate improving.

How successful have been the water projects that the Netherlands has already undertaken in India?

Both countries share huge challenges in water. We either have too much or too little or it is too dirty. We are trying to get our universities together with companies to work on the problem. We have done a programme in Chennai — which has heavy rains for six weeks and rest of the year there is no water. Now joint programme teams from the Netherlands and India have found out that if for those six weeks water is stored and is not allowed to go to the sea, one can clean it and use it rest of the year. You don’t have to bring water in trains or need expensive desalinated plants. We are also working on cleaning the Ganga.

Is there any hope for the tanneries closed down in UP for polluting the Ganga?

A number of tanneries have been closed down in UP and we are working with many of them to help them implement new technologies so that they can run their business in a sustainable way without producing much waste or polluting the water. We are also working very closely with the UP government and are opening a Centre of Excellence in the State to share our knowledge and expertise.

Published on October 13, 2019

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