British finance minister in India to boost trade ties

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Britain's finance minister George Osborne will visit Mumbai this week as part of a top-level delegation that hopes to sign a raft of trade deals with India and put economic ties on a new footing.

The British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai said that the chancellor of the exchequer would be in India's financial capital on Tuesday and Wednesday, notably for a keynote speech on building a "new economic partnership".

"Our two countries have the potential to forge a new economic partnership and further develop, to our mutual benefit, the trade and investment links in financial services and the wider economy," Osborne said in a statement.

Osborne is one of a number of senior ministers and captains of industry from some of Britain's biggest firms accompanying Prime Minister David Cameron to India this week in the hope of securing lucrative trade and partnership deals.

Bilateral trade between Britain and India was worth 11.5 billion pounds (13.7 billion euros, 17.7 billion dollars) last year.

Cameron, who took power in May, has said he wants to realign British foreign policy with a greater emphasis on business to boost the country's economy as it emerges from recession facing deep budget cuts and to combat record state debt.

Osborne wrote in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph newspaper that it would be the "strongest British delegation to visit India in modern times" and includes bosses from mobile phone giant Vodafone and defence firm BAE Systems.

In Mumbai, Osborne will meet the governor of India's central bank, D. Subbarao, ring the bell to start the day's trading at the Bombay Stock Exchange and launch Vodafone's new solar-powered mobile handset.

He will also open Monitise, a British mobile banking service company, and meet leading bankers, regulators, corporate heads and industrialists, the deputy high commission said.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown visited Mumbai in January 2007 while still finance minister. He was accompanied by more than 150 business leaders from more than 80 British companies.

He returned to India as premier a year later on a similar trip also designed to boost trade ties.

© 2010 AFP

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