Trade with Latin American and Caribbean nations has been ignored by the present government over the past three years leading to steep decline in figures. Even as trade figures between India and LAC region slid from USD 38.4 billion in 2014-15 to USD 24.5 billion in 2016-17 as per the data from Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has totally overlooked the region.
As of June end, the Prime Minister has made 65 foreign trips in the past three years, visiting 48 countries, conveniently overlooking the LAC region except for attending the sixth BRICS Summit held in Brazil in July 2014 and a working visit to Mexico in June 2016.
So much so that he even chose to remain away from the 17th NAM Summit in Venezuela in 2016 obviously, following the policy of the United States against Venezuela.
This was the first NAM summit that was not attended by an Indian Prime Minister, except for 1979 when caretaker Prime Minister Charan Singh had skipped the Havana summit.
India happens to be one of the five founding countries of NAM. It appears that India has lost interest in the now 120-member NAM with tilt towards United States increasing with Modi visiting the US five times in three years to show proximity to that country and driving a wedge in relations with the all-weather friend Russia.
The neglect of Venezuela is clear from the steep fall in trade from $14.1 billion in 2013-14 to $5.5 billion in 2016-17. Export to Venezuela fell from $196.9 million in 2013-14 to $ 62.2 million in 2016-17.
Similarly imports from Venezuela to India took a nose dive from $13.9 billion in 2013-14 to $5.5 billion in 2016-17 which was largely crude oil from one of the largest suppliers of the crude from LAC to India.
At a time when Venezuela was facing turbulent times with violent protests at home by opposition groups, India seems to have given a cold shoulder to the LAC nation which is already facing sanctions from the United States.
But it is not Venezuela alone which has faced decline in trade with India,
Ecuador too has witnessed sharp fall in trade with India. Ecuador’s trade graph with India has been fluctuating from $1.1 billion in 2012-13 to $1.2 billion in 2014-15 coming down to $554 million in 2016-17.
In case of Ecuador trade hit the ceiling in 2014-15 slipping down in the following year and sliding down further in 2016-17.
In a similar fashion trade with Colombia has also shown a sharp decline from $3.2 billion in 2014-15 to 1.3 billion in 2016-17, a decline of almost 60 per cent.
Business with Chile has come down considerably from USD 3.6 billion in 2014-15 toUSD1.9 billion in 2016-17, a decline of almost 47 per cent.
Figures of trade with Brazil are not encouraging either; total trade with Brazil has dipped from $11.3 billion in 2014-15 to $6.5 billion in 2016-17. Export to Brazil got a big setback from the year 2014-15.
These are the major countries of the region which have recorded a dip in trade with India.
Mexico recorded a minor increase in trade figures with $6.2 billion in 2014-15 to $6.4 billion in 2016-17 after registering a fall in 2015-16 to $5.1 billion. In a similar fashion Peru recorded a minor increase in trade from $1.4billion in 2014-15 to $1.7 billion in 2016-17, but export to Peru fell from $819.8 million in 2014-15 to $699 million in 2016-17; only imports from Peru doubled from $590.4 million to $1.07 billion, thanks to the increase in gold imports from that country.
While India is still sloppy in paying attention to the region, China has been investing there in a big way almost taking over the entire market, both in terms of trade and investments even as the LAC countries are keen to reduce excess dependence on China.