Narendra Modi can expect an earful on the benefits of free trade when he visits Stockholm for a summit with Nordic peers already rattled by the sound of Donald Trump’s protectionist war-drums.
- Modi for his part, has been sending conflicting messages about his free trade credentials: Having declared at the World Economic Forum in January that India was open for business, the premier made a U-turn less than a month later by raising import duties to their highest level in three decades.
- The last thing that the export-oriented Nordics need from the world’s biggest economies is more protectionism.
- Given India’s preference for dealing with individual countries rather than the EU as a whole, the summit is a golden opportunity for the Nordics -- a region of 27 million people with an economy roughly the size of Canada’s -- to do business with the world’s biggest democracy. A free trade agreement with the EU has been years in the making, with slim results.
- There’s a realization among Nordic governments of the potential importance that India can play in the coming years,” said Henrik Aspengren, a researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. “Compared to China, it has the potential to grow.”
- India’s $2.3 trillion economy has obvious attractions for Nordic businesses. Sweden, for instance, is sensing an opportunity to showcase its Saab AB Gripen fighter jets ahead of a July deadline for bids in India’s procurement process of 110 locally-manufactured aircraft.
- Denmark, for its part, is keen to sell its windmills and food-processing machinery, according to Kunal Singla, who heads the Danish industry lobby’s office in India.