India to work closely with Asean for early conclusion of RCEP: Prabhu

Jan 22, 2018 0

New Delhi– Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday said that India will “be working closely” with other countries, particularly from the Asean region for an early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“… It is important to address the sensitivities of member countries and their aspirations as negotiations gather momentum. We would all aim to achieve a RCEP that results in the realisation of the potential of the three key pillars of RCEP — goods, services and investments and in a manner that is balanced and collectivist satisfying.

Suresh Prabhu

“Keeping this in view, India will be working closely and constructively with all RCEP member countries and particularly Asean towards an early conclusion of negotiations,” he said on the sidelines of the “Asean-India Business and Investment Meet and Expo” being held here.

The mega free trade agreement — RCEP — is currently being negotiated between Asean member states — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The RCEP negotiation includes trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and other issues.

“We believe RCEP is a logical extension of India’s Act East Policy and believe that deeper interaction with RCEP will bring in greater prosperity…,” said Prabhu, adding that the RCEP negotiations are “slow” but only because of the diversity of economic strengthens of the member countries.

The first phase of negotiations began in November 2012.

On deepening of India’s relations with Asean, Prabhu said that together the two “can unleash latent synergies through mutual cooperation” in business and trade and that both sides should “co-build and co-operate” rather then compete.

He further said that India has taken up several projects in the region, bilateral trade has exponentially grown to $71 billion and the two sides are now aiming to scale it up to $200 billion by 2022.

Prabhu pointed out that taken together, India and Asean represents a combined population of two billion people and economy close to $5 trillion. (IANS)

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India to host 16th International Energy Forum conference from April 10-12

Jan 22, 2018 0

New Delhi– India will host the 16th ministerial round-table conference of the International Energy Forum (IEF) from April 10-12 in the national capital, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said here on Monday.

The conference will be co-hosted by China and South Korea, he said.

Dharmendra Pradhan

“The major theme of the conference will be on future of global energy security, transition, technology and investment opportunities,” he said.

Representatives from 92 countries will be present at the conference, including 72 member countries of IEF and 20 guest countries, the minister said.

Global energy organisations including the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, International Energy Agency will also be represented at the meet, he said.

Talking of the significance of the event, he said: “India, China and South Korea are consumer countries… We are hosting IEF… Certainly when consumers will host the programme, consumers’ interests will dominate the discussions.”

India had last hosted the IEF ministerial conference in 1996, Pradhan said. (IANS)

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Apple announces $350 bn investments in US, delights Trump

Jan 18, 2018 0

Washington– In a New Year gift to President Donald Trump, Apple has committed to invest $350 billion in the US over the next five years that includes creating 20,000 new jobs and an anticipated repatriation tax payments of $38 billion as required by new laws.

“A payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made,” Apple said in a statement late on Wednesday, cheering Trump.

Tim Cook

“I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States. Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS. Huge win for American workers and the USA!” Trump tweeted.

The repatriation comes in response to changes to the tax law, approved at the end of 2017, which aim, among other measures, to persuade US companies to repatriate their capital by reducing tax burdens.

Under the new law, companies that make a one-time repatriation of cash will be taxed at a rate of 15.5 per cent on cash holdings and 8 per cent on non-liquid assets.

The Apple investments will concentrate in three areas where Apple has had the greatest impact on job creation: direct employment by Apple, spending and investment with Apple’s domestic suppliers and manufacturers, and fuelling the fast-growing app economy which Apple created with iPhone and the App Store.

“Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the US economy,” said CEO Tim Cook.

“We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness,” he added.

Apple is already responsible for creating and supporting over 2 million jobs across the US and expects to generate even more jobs as a result of the initiatives being announced on Thursday.

Apple already employs 84,000 people in all 50 US states.

Planned capital expenditures in the US, investments in American manufacturing over five years and a record tax payment upon repatriation of overseas profits will account for approximately $75 billion of Apple’s direct contribution.

“The company plans to establish an Apple campus in a new location, which will initially house technical support for customers. The location of this new facility will be announced later in the year,” Apple said.

Over $10 billion of Apple’s expanded capital expenditures will be investments in data centres across the US.

The iOS app economy has created more than 1.6 million jobs in the US and generated $5 billion in revenue for American app developers in 2017.

Last year, after Trump announced that Cook has promised to build three new manufacturing plants in the country, the tech giant revealed plans to build a $1.3 billion data centre in Waukee, Iowa.

“Our new data centre in Iowa will help serve millions of people across North America who use Siri, iMessage, Apple Music and other Apple services, all powered by renewable energy,” Cook said.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in July, Trump said he had a phone conversation with Cook. “He’s promised me three big plants – big, big, big,” Trump said, referring to Cook.

“I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success. He called me, and he said they are going forward,” Trump was quoted as saying.

Trump has reiterated several times that he would bring jobs back to the US. (IANS)

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India to become $5 tn economy in next 8-9 years: Suresh Prabhu

Jan 17, 2018 0

New Delhi– India is expected to become a $5 trillion economy in the next eight-nine years with the manufacturing sector alone contributing 20 per cent towards that, Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Wednesday.

“We are preparing a detailed plan towards achieving that. Experts are busy preparing the roadmap including all the sectors where manufacturing can be promoted. If manufacturing is digitised, it will create a huge opportunity for technology firms,” Prabhu said.

Suresh Prabhu

Speaking on the first day of the India Digital Summit organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) here, the minister said innnovation cannot be confined to geographical borders.

“In order to reach the $5 trillion economy, manufacturing will contrinute $1 trillion and services will contribute $3 trillion,” the minister told the gathering.

Prabhu said he was currently working on a strategy for international trade which will contribute $2 trillion to the economy, where the contribution can come both from manufacturing and services sectors.

Earlier in the day, Niti Aayog Chief Executive Amitabh Kant said that every Indian will have a smartphone in the next five years.

There were nearly 400 million smartphone users in the country, he said, adding this was a period of huge technology disruption in the country.

“Today, 85 per cent of the devices are still unconnected. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. The opportunity would be in the range of $70 billion by 2025,” Kant told the gathering.

According to him, Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone will generate opportunity to the tune of $32 billion.

“Advanced robotics are already handling 25 per cent of the jobs. This will rise to 45 per cent in the coming years.

“India is already ranked globally as the most active Internet user globally on a monthly basis. Digital transaction will touch $100 trillion in the next 10 years,” he told the gathering.

With 99 per cent Aadhaar penetration and bank account opened under Jan Dhan Yojana, he said, the scope was immense for the Fin-Tech industry.

“As far as the start-up community goes, ‘Make in India’ initiative had brought in a paradigm change in the financial ecosystem. While we have 4,000 start-ups, it will go up to 12,000 by 2020,” Kant said, adding that about 600 start-ups were there in the FinTech sector which will become a $14 billion opportunity by 2020.

The challenges today for the country were to provide safe drinking water, create infrastructure and build flyovers. All these give unicorns a unique opportunity to invest and explore, Kant said.

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said that for IoT to happen, we need to have a robust 4G ecosystem in the country.

“I am hopeful that by the end of this year, we will have a pan-India 4G network availability,” Sundararajan told the audience.

She mentioned that the government has constituted a task force for rolling out the 5G network in the country.

The taskforce will come out with a roadmap soon, she said, adding that the Department of Telecommunications is keen on partnering with key telecom providers in the roll-out stage.

Delivering the inaugural address, Rajan Anandan, Chairman, IAMAI, and Vice President, Google India and South-East Asia, said these are exciting times for the Internet adoption in the country.

“Availability of very low-cost yet high-speed mobile Internet connection in 2017 has moved a slow-speed nation to a high-speed nation,” Anandan noted. (IANS)

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Rajasthan refinery will change state’s future: Modi

Jan 16, 2018 0

Barmer (Rajasthan)– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that the petroleum refinery he inaugurated in Barmer district will not only change the future of Rajasthan, but also help generate energy for the entire country.

He said that when the country celebrates in 2022 the 75th anniversary of its independence, a new source will help produce energy which would be sent across India.

He was addressing the work commencement ceremony of the Rs 43,129 crore refinery project at Pachpadra in Barmer district on Tuesday in the presence of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Petroleum Minister Dharamendra Pradhan.

“Rajasthan is taking the lead to become the energy powerhouse of the country,” Modi said while addressing the event.

The Prime Minister said lakhs of people would get employment and the economic scenario in the region would change.

The refinery, a joint venture between Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Rajasthan government, will have the capacity to refine 90 lakh crude oil annually.

Due to be completed by 2022, the project is expected to bring Rs 34,000 crore to the state government coffers annually.

He appreciated the efforts of Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje who initiated the process to turn this project into reality.

“We cannot mislead people by installing stones. As in 2022 we complete 75 years of independence, we will ensure that our refinery starts functioning in the same year,” Modi said.

He took a dig at the Congress, saying: “We don’t want people to come and ask us that after installing the stone why you did not take action on implementing the same.”

The foundation stone laying ceremony had been performed four years ago by then Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Modu said the Congress had installed stone plaques across the country and misguided the public. He said he hoped that henceforth the public would ask for the date of commencement of public works.

Taking a dig at the Congress, the Prime Minister said he had heard people say that the Congress and drought were twins.

“When the Congress comes to power, drought comes along. On the other hand, whenever Raje becomes the Chief Minister, dry regions of the state receive good rains.”

Due to Raje’s untiring efforts, the refinery project, which was getting delayed, was finally realised and Rajasthan will benefit, he added.

Hitting out at the Congress on the issue of inauguration of the refinery project twice, Chief Minister Raje said: “We don’t believe in installing stones, but we believe in working hard to build a building. We work to turn our efforts into reality.”

Accusing the earlier Congress government of not doing anything after the stone-laying ceremony, she said: “There was no planning, no seriousness and no projection of implementing this scheme. We are doing this with a lot of planning.”

The refinery work has been kicked off by our Prime Minister and I firmly believe that it will be inaugurated also by Modi, she said.

Raje said the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state had made farmers a partner in developmental process through the new Solar Energy Policy.

In the next one year, Bhadala Solar Park with 2,255 MW generation capacity will be set up and another with 1,000 MW capacity will come up in Nokh in Jaisalmer.

The programme was also addressed by Pradhan who said the refinery will bring in lot of growth and development in the state. (IANS)

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Tech Mahindra Partners With Online Learning Platform edX

Jan 13, 2018 0

NOIDA, India–Tech Mahindra announced their partnership with edX.org, the leading global non-profit, open-source learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT.

This is edX’s first ever collaboration of this kind with a global technology brand headquartered in India, and comes on the heels of recent partnership with GE, wherein the company has also guaranteed interviews to learners who complete specific MicroMasters programs.

Since first announced in September 2016, edX and 25 international partners have launched 46 MicroMasters programs. Since edX began in 2012, India has consistently remained the platform’s second largest learner base, underscoring the strong need for high-quality education in India and the enthusiasm of Indian learners. Over the last couple of years, edX has witnessed great momentum with 96% growth in its Indian learner base. With more than 1,500,000 Indian learners, India makes up 11% of the edX learner base overall.

Anant Agarwal (left) and CP Gurnani

The Tech Mahindra initiative is aimed at reskilling company’s existing 117,000+ employees in India and across the globe, enabling their development and growth through world class programs offered by leading Universities in areas like IoT, Cyber security, VR, Machine Learning, Big data, Analytics etc.

As part of the partnership Tech Mahindra will also offer opportunities for pre-identified learners enrolled in an edX MicroMasters program. Anyone who completes these programs and meets the minimum criteria of education and work experience, Tech Mahindra will assure a job interview with the company.

The MicroMasters programs are an in-depth and rigorous series of courses, with a path to credit from prestigious universities. To learn more about MicroMasters programs on edX, visit www.edx.org/micromasters.

This engagement empowers Tech Mahindra associates with much needed learning opportunities to enhance their careers and stay relevant in the Digital Age. Tech Mahindra has worked out special schemes for its employees where they can self- fund the certifications at discounted rates to be reimbursed on successful completion of the course. edX platform leverages the years of classroom learning experience of best universities in the world with neuroscience to deliver an active learning experience and holds the learner’s interest while learning online.

“Training and Reskilling are more imperative and relevant to reinvent and tap into new market opportunities arising out of technological change and new customer requirements,” said CP Gurnani, CEO and MD at Tech Mahindra. “Today’s disruptive business landscape demands for our talents to be future ready and it is our prime responsibility that the right tools and innovative pathways are facilitated for them. However, in the new world the employee has to bear the onus as learning accountability is now increasingly shifting to the employee.”

Mr. Gurnani said his firm is excited to work together with edX because careers will be facilitated with a blended learning environment as well as this gives the firm the opportunity to bring in new ideas to the table and enhance the customers’ experiences.

“EdX is driven by the mission to provide access to high-quality education that transforms lives and advances careers to all learners, everywhere. This groundbreaking partnership with Tech Mahindra furthers our mission and underscores our commitment to edX learners in India and around the globe,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “Through this innovative work with Tech Mahindra, we are working together to offer learners the tools they need to gain knowledge in the most cutting edge fields, including Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Business Analytics amongst others, in order to fast-track their careers and secure in-demand jobs.”

This is edX’s first ever collaboration of this kind with a global technology brand headquartered in India, and comes on the heels of recent partnership with GE, wherein the company has also guaranteed interviews to learners who complete specific MicroMasters programs.

Since first announced in September 2016, edX and 25 international partners have launched 46 MicroMasters programs. Since edX began in 2012, India has consistently remained the platform’s second largest learner base, underscoring the strong need for high-quality education in India and the enthusiasm of Indian learners. Over the last couple of years, edX has witnessed great momentum with 96% growth in its Indian learner base. With more than 1,500,000 Indian learners, India makes up 11% of the edX learner base overall.

EdX.org is the leading online learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard. It is the premier open source, non-profit learning destination and massive open online course (MOOC) provider, offering high-quality courses and programs from the world’s best universities and institutions.

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Is Apple really doing badly in India?

Jan 11, 2018 0

By Faisal Kawoosa

Given the current market conditions in India for smartphones, it appears that Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder, was prophetic: He did not consider this country a significant opportunity.

Let’s take a look at the Apple story since its entry into India in 2008. A lot has changed in the market — changes that have been favourable for consumers and the industry but, perhaps, not so much for Apple.

Tim Cook

In the decade since its arrival, almost all the segments — barring the $100 to $200 segment — have seen a decline in the competitive and price-sensitive Indian market. But what should concern the Cupertino-based iPhone-maker is the steep fall in the $400-and-above market.

In 2008 and 2009, this segment used to account for 30 per cent of the total smartphone shipments. From 2010 onwards, around the time domestic brands made their entry in the ring, helping to expand the sub-$100 category, the premium segment fell to half at 15 per cent.

Barring a spike in 2011, the $400-and-above market has been on the decline in terms of shipment contribution. In the period, whatever growth took place in the smartphone market, happened at the lower end of the price strata.

Since 2013, the $400-plus market has been in single digits, and this is obviously not a good sign for a premium brand like Apple in India — even if the iPhone SE is taken into account, which is more of a mid-premium smartphone and is now being assembled in Bengaluru.

The big question now is: Has Apple’s poor performance in India been on account of some loose ends in its strategy? Or is it merely because of the segment/s in which the Cupertino-based iPhone-maker operates?

Let us examine the market share of Apple in the segments it operates in.

Over its decade-long presence in the country, Apple has been operating in three price segments. Among these, $400-plus has been the staple where the tech giant has performed superbly.

From just over five per cent share of the segment in 2008, when Apple said ‘Namaste’ to India, it currently enjoys over 47 per cent share in the $400-and-above smartphone segment by units.

In terms of revenues, Apple has also seen consistent growth despite pressures like shrinking opportunities in the premium segment as well as falling average selling prices — not the forget the “forced” downward movement to cater to the mid-premium segment.

In 2017, till September end, there has been a 21 per cent revenue decline compared to the calendar year 2016.

But then, Apple has witnessed good annual growth rates since 2010 — its average annual revenue growth rate has been 116 per cent in its first decade of presence in India.

Both from the revenue as well as volume aspects, Apple has seen a consoling India story so far.

The real issue is the growth in the premium segment with several players, incluing from China, now offering devices. This segment is going to see some difficult times ahead owing to the fact that, after Jio surfaced on the landscape, the opportunity now shifts towards the entry-level players to let a user have his or her first smartphone experience.

In the era of “Desh Ka Smartphone” and “Mera Pehla Smartphone”, it would be challenging for any premium smartphone brand, including Apple, to grow like in the past.

The overall declining growth in all price segments of smartphone over the last decade or so, Apple’s consistent growth in revenues as well as its increasing growth in market share in the segment(s) it is present, has an interesting story to tell.

For Apple, revenues as well as its market standing is on the rise so far, as it faces the peculiar nature of the domestic market.

Was Jobs able to foresee this peculiarity of the Indian smartphone market or was his interpretation something different?

Whatever his interpretation, the impact for Apple is more or less the same. (IANS)

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India one of most important markets to sell, develop products: Lenovo CEO

Jan 10, 2018 0

By Hardev Sanotra

Las Vegas– India is one of the most important markets for Lenovo to not only sell its products, but to develop them, a top official of the Fortune 500 company said.

Yang Yuanqing, Chief Executive Officer of Lenovo, said that given India’s population, it remains one of the largest and most important markets, and because of its tech talent, it allows the company to develop products.

“Your skills and market, no matter whether it’s for personal computer or smartphones or others, makes it one of the most important markets for Lenovo,” Yuanqing, more familiarly called “YY” by colleagues, told a small group of invited journalists from India, Japan and Taiwan, on the sidelines of the largest consumer electronics show (CES) 2018 here.

He said that, when they talk about India, they always discuss the education level of the people.

Fifty-three-year-old Yuanqing had visited India in 2016 and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had urged the CEO to set up a manufacturing base in India under the Make in India programme.

Nick Reynolds, Chief Marketing Officer of Lenovo, who was present at the media interaction, told IANS that Yuanqing would be visiting India again later this year and would possibly bring with him some more initiatives for the country.

He would also likely meet Modi again, Reynolds said.

Asked whether Lenovo, which had set up two manufacturing bases in India for PCs and smartphones, would continue to market itself by its own name or that of Motorola which it acquired, and by which it’s better known in most parts of the world, Yuanqing said that the strategy would be decided by the customer.

“If the Indian customer view Moto as a premier product, we will position it as such. But if the Indian customer looks for better priced product, our strategy would be to use Lenovo as brand name,” he said.

Asked whether the recent vulnerabilities discovered in Intel, AMD and ARM chips was something that the world should worry about, Yuanqing said that it was an industry-wide issue and what was needed was to fix it.

“We have to explain and look for customer satisfaction. We have to find the issue and fix it. There is no other way. Customers will continue to need computers or tablets or other devices.”

Lenovo became the world’s largest supplier of PCs in 2016, shipping out some 55.5 million pieces to around 160 countries, dislodging giants such as Dell and HP from the top perch.

Yuanqing said that they hoped to remain number one for the next ten years, but it would not be easy.

“We reached the top by being more efficient than our competition, but nobody can guarantee that. We have to be sensitive to the changing market,” he added.

He said they were leading in a large number of segments and would be strengthening their data centre business, aiming to become the top company in supercomputing from being among the top five and look at leveraging every product through artificial intelligence (AI).

He said the company would be investing more than the announced $1.2 billion in the next three years, since every product and solution was AI-defined now.

Yuanqing said AI had changed everything and big data analysis is what large companies depend on.

“Earlier, we used to depend on focus groups to understand customer requirements, but those were not that accurate. Now, we are using big data to forecast demand in our supply chain. We used to depend on deep learning by human beings. Now we depend on the machines. In the past two quarters, the machine forecasts have been more accurate. That’s another kind of intelligence,” he added.

He said the company needed to strengthen storage and network businesses and provide better server storage for Cloud computing companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, and provide them different products and skills.

He said Lenovo’s main competitor in this area were not multinationals, but Taiwanese companies.

“You must be cost efficient and customerise the solutions. It’s not enough to provide the device, but to make money also,” he said.

Asked what differentiated the company from other multinationals, Yuanqing said that if you take an American multinational or a Japanese one, all the top executives were from the country where the company had the head office.

“But we have less than half of our top executives from China. We are very unique in that we depend on more international talent. We are not based in one city, but we are in Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and Chicago, in Milan and the West Coast of the US. That has given us an advantage by using talent from different countries who have knowledge of their key markets,” Yuanqing said. (IANS)

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Nagesh Mahanthappa- Founded Scholar Rock Announces $47 Million Series C Financing

Jan 4, 2018 0

CAMBRIDGE, MA– Scholar Rock, a biotechnology company focused on discovering and developing drugs that selectively modulate growth factor activation in the disease microenvironment, announced the closing of a $47 million Series C financing.

The financing was led by new investor Invus, with the participation of new investor Redmile Group. All of the existing investors in Scholar Rock also participated in this financing round, including Polaris Partners, Timothy Springer, ARCH Venture Partners, EcoR1 Capital, The Kraft Group, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Cormorant Asset Management, the company said in a statement.

“We are delighted by the strong support and recognition we received in this Series C financing and the expansion of our group of world-class life sciences investors, which now includes Invus and Redmile,” said Nagesh Mahanthappa, President and Chief Executive Officer of Scholar Rock. “We expect 2018 to be a critical year of growth for Scholar Rock, as we advance the first clinical candidate from our groundbreaking platform into the clinic to address an important unmet need in SMA and continue to build out our pipeline.”

Nagesh Mahanthappa (Photo: Linkedin)

Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance SRK-015, the company’s lead clinical candidate for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and other neuromuscular disorders, into clinical development in the first half of 2018. Scholar Rock plans to evaluate the potential of SRK-015 to improve muscle strength and motor function, both in SMA patients who are on therapies aimed at upregulating the production of the deficient SMN protein and as monotherapy in certain subpopulations of SMA patients. In addition, the efficient and disciplined application of this funding enables Scholar Rock to further progress additional development candidates in disease areas such as fibrosis, immuno-oncology, and anemias associated with iron restriction.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a rare, and often fatal, genetic disorder that affects approximately 1 in every 10,000 births. This disease is due to defects in the SMN1 gene that produces SMN, a protein important for the survival and function of lower motor neurons.

Scholar Rock is discovering and developing a pipeline of innovative new medicines to treat a range of serious diseases in which growth factors play a fundamental role, including neuromuscular diseases, cancer and fibrosis. By focusing on newly elucidated biology of growth factor activation, Scholar Rock has developed insights which allow us to selectively target growth factors in the disease microenvironment – through the mechanism of modulating supracellular activation.

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India’s border trade with Myanmar stagnates at $50mn as China’s hits $6bn

Dec 22, 2017 0

By Ranjana Narayan

New Delhi– As India prepares to celebrate the silver jubilee of its partnership with ASEAN in a big way, a key border trade link with Myanmar, the closest neighbour of the vibrant Southeast Asian bloc, continues to be hobbled by infrastructure and other issues — 22 years after it was launched.

India’s border trade with Myanmar takes place mainly through Moreh, in Manipur’s Chandel district, which links with Tamu, located in Sagaing in northwest Myanmar. There is another border trade point through Zowkhathar in Mizoram with the corresponding point Rhi in Myanmar, but Moreh is the biggest border trade point.

Though India and Myanmar signed the border trade agreement on January 21, 1994, and it was made operational the following year, the bilateral border trade figure stands at $50 million — a poor comparison to Myanmar’s trade with China, which was around $6 billion last year.

Myanmar has four border trading points with China, of which the one at Muse, in northern Shan state, is the biggest. Around 80 per cent of Myanmar’s formal overland trade with China passes through this post that links with Ruili, in China’s Yunnan province.

While China has pumped in massive amounts of money to build modern infrastructure at Ruili and also in Yunnan province to boost connectivity with Myanmar, the infrastructure at the India-Myanmar border post, Moreh, is still inadequate. An Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Moreh has been in the works for the past 10 years and is yet to be completed.

Besides the difficult terrain and militancy that adversely affect border trade at Moreh-Tamu, India in December 2015 officially put an end to the barter system, or trading of goods without exchange of money. According to Myanmarese media reports, the ending of barter trade “killed” India-Myanmar border trade.

Professor Priyoranjan Singh, an economist at Manipur University, says that since the Government of India notification ending barter trade, “the present state is that formal trade, or normal official trade, stands at zero, and informal, or illegal trade — or head load trade — is going on”.

He told IANS that there was a “huge information gap” between the two sides, including among the traders. “Our own Indian customs agency does not know the customs duty that Myanmar imposes on Indian goods,” he said.

Singh, who has expertise in the field, feels that “seriousness is not there” in India on boosting border trade, while China exhibits “huge seriousness, which is something Myanmar likes”.

Gautam Mukhopadhyay, former Indian envoy to Myanmar, says there are reasons for China’s border trade with Myanmar being more robust than India.

“First, Yunnan is a much better connected and more productive gateway from China to Myanmar than the Northeast of India to Myanmar. Secondly, for any Northeastern state of India to match China in cross-border trade, the region has to become a net producer than consumer, and better connected to the main productive regions of India,” Mukhopadhyay said.

He said efforts were being made in that direction. “But it will take some time and better coordination between our development, commercial and strategic policies for us to match China.”

He said the government has tried to address the issue of low volumes by liberalising cross-border trade and moving to the Most Favoured Nation trade status, but there was a “need for a reliable system to determine countries of origin of goods”. A lot of goods from China are available in the markets in the region.

Economist Ram Upendra Das, head of the Centre for Regional Trade, an autonomous institute under the Commerce Ministry, in his report on ‘Enhancing India-Myanmar border trade’ released last year by the ministry, says: “A major cause of discontent among local traders is that the pace of construction of Moreh ICP is very slow.”

Das told IANS that “it is very important that border trade is conducted through formal channels”, which would help increase the volume as India has slashed the tariff in a majority of items to zero, which means no border tax.

“There is an information gap and lack of understanding among the traders” on the benefits of conducting trade through the formal channel, he said. Informal trade would also give rise to corruption, in the form of levy imposed by militant groups and bribes, he added.

On China developing the infrastructure in Myanmar, Mukhopadhyay says: “China has made huge investments into power and extractive industries for its own interests, but very little into employment-intensive industries that really benefit Myanmar. China has been able to convert its more selfish investments into greater political clout than India. This is something we need to think about.” (IANS)

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