ASSOCHAM Webinar on India & Costa Rica: A Decade of Partnership and the Future Roadmap September 15, 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020

Costa Rica is a peace-loving country with no army. As India celebrates the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, apostle of peace, the shared values between the two countries can be understood better
: H.E. Shri Upender Singh Rawat, Ambassador of India to Costa Rica
Great opportunity exists for the India-Costa Rica economic partnership with Costa Rica under infrastructure expansion, especially in areas like IT, telecom, railway including metro transportation, power etc. and other areas like biodiversity, eco-tourism. In the changed situation due to the pandemic, more opportunities have emerged in areas of pharma, IT-BPM: H.E. Shri Upender Singh Rawat, Ambassador of India to Costa Rica
Costa Rica supports India’s enhanced role in the Security Council, because, during the time of need, India has been a friend of the world, extending humanitarian and disaster relief aid, support in UN Peacekeeping Missions, economic and technical assistance through the ITEC programme, and more recently providing pharmaceutical supplies and medical aid since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic: H.E. Mr. Claudio Ansorena Montero, Ph.D., Ambassador of Costa Rica to India
I would love to see an Indian embassy in Costa Rica, and hopefully under PM Modi’s astute foreign policy, I am positive it will happen very soon: H.E. Mr. Claudio Ansorena Montero, Ph.D., Ambassador of Costa Rica to India
Foreign investors remain attracted towards Costa Rica due to stable political and economic conditions. Costa Rica receives the highest level of FDIs in Central America.  Costa Rica’s focus is on a 2T economy- Technology and Tourism: H. E. Mr. Ravi Bangar, Former Ambassador of India to Colombia and Ecuador.
ASSOCHAM would like to take the lead in bringing about the bridging between India and Costa Rica: Niranjan Hiranandani: President, ASSOCHAM
A special webinar was organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in collaboration with the Embassy of Costa Rica in India on 15th September 2020, to mark the 199th Independence Day of Costa Rica. The webinar was aimed to provide an overview of a decade of the India-Costa Rica partnership, and to deliberate upon the future roadmap of bilateral trade and economic ties. One of the principal objectives of this webinar was to increase awareness amongst the Indian and Costa Rican people and industry regarding prospective business opportunities and partnerships in both countries.
The panel comprisedH.E. Shri Upender Singh Rawat, Ambassador of India to Costa Rica, H.E. Mr. Claudio Ansorena Montero, Ph.D., Ambassador of Costa Rica to India, H. E. Mr.  Ravi Bangar, Former Ambassador of India to Colombia & Ecuador, Mr. George M. George, Managing Director, Xandari Resorts, The Muthoot Group, Mr. Sourabh Dasgupta, President -Costa Rica India Association,Mr. Munish Manchanda, Site Leader - Finance, Amazon, Costa Rica, Mr. Alok Kumar, Sub-Regional head: Central America & Caribbean, UPL Limited (based in Costa Rica).The session was moderated by Dr.AparajitaGangopadhyay, Professor - International Relations & Director, Centre for Latin American Studies, Goa University.
Welcoming the panelists and conveying his felicitations on the Independence Day of Costa Rica, Dr. Niranjan Hiranandani said that India and Costa Rica share a special relationship based on common vision and objectives, with the leadership in both countries focussed equally on a peace-thinking thought process, sustainable development and environmental protection. Referring to the 2019 visit of Hon’ble Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Dr. Hiranandani expressed his wish for more high-level visits and delegations between both countries to bring about a closer relationship and stronger business ties.
Ambassador Claudio Ansorena shared the rich historical achievements and evolution of Costa Rica since its independence in 1821. “Costa Rica can be a role model for the world, in standing firm and serious about  our commitment towards democracy and peace, which has been the underlying inspiration for many of our subsequent actions; be it abolishing the army, focus on education and healthcare, being the only country to reverse deforestation and running on renewable energy,” the Costa Rican Ambassador added.
Sharing his vision for future India and Costa Rica ties, Ambassador Ansorena said that in addition to stronger commercial and economic relations, deeper synergies must be built by way of “greater cultural exchanges, teaching the values of Gandhi to Costa Rican children, learning from India’s frugal innovation embedded in the young Indian’s entrepreneurial DNA, and the Indian willingness to learn, science technology and Math and economics and have Costa Rican spelling prodigies like Indian kids”.
Ambassador Upender Rawat highlighted that Costa Rica’s strategic location, focus on education with a 98% literacy rate, capacity building and strong technical base, trained bilingual workforce with sound proficiency in English language, make it  an attractive investment destination for Indian firms and to establish their base in the region. Costa Rica is better receptive of the Indian capacity building programmes, especially the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation(ITEC) offered by the Indian government to friendly countries worldwide.
Various policy initiatives of the Indian government including Digital India, Skill India, Startup India, Agriculture Export Policy, Solar Power Policy provide a broadened scope of cooperation, especially in sectors like agriculture, pharma and IT-BPM.
Ambassador Ravi Bangar expressed his admiration and praise for the legendary  achievements of Costa Rica, spearheaded by its common people who launched the country to the global platform with remarkable accomplishments to its credit including the abolition of death penalty, abolition of Army, focus on education, innovation and technology, sustainable development and infrastructure, an unparalleled decarbonization plan, efforts begetting Costa Rica the United Nations University for Peace (UPEACE) and a Noble Peace Prize for itsPresident Óscar Arias Sánchez in 1987 for his efforts to end the Central American crisis. He emphasized on the need for and potential of greater cooperation in biotechnology, agritech, environmental sciences & clean technologies, research and innovation between India and Costa Rica.
There is also vast potential of cooperation in the tourism and hospitality sector, specifically ecotourism  centred around wellness, Yoga and Ayurveda,  Costa Rica’s focus on wellness and ecological preservation and given India’s prowess and rich heritage of Yoga, Ayurveda, natural and life sciences and
Recommendations emerging out of this webinar centered around both governments working together to reactivate the MoU on Economic Cooperation signed in 2013, relaxing visa norms – free tourist visa and visa on arrival for business visitors, a pact on avoidance of double taxation, starting talks on a Preferential Trade Agreement(PTA) between India and the SICA region, implementation of the Letter of Intent to collaborate in the field of biotechnology signed in 2019 et al.
Distance, costly transportation and airfares, double taxation, high tariffs are some of the principal barriers in trade relations between India and Costa Rica, Ambassador Ansorena informed, urging the Government of India to open an embassy in Costa Rica. Ambassador Upender Rawat assured that bolstering trade and investment partnerships is a priority for his mission, though visa relaxations may take some time. “The Government of India has established a Concessional Financing Scheme since 2015-16 to support Indian companies and entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad. Current level of bilateral trade ~ $176 million and can be enhance,” the Indian envoy informed.
Industry representatives from Muthoot Leisure and Hospitality, UPL Limited and corporate representatives of Indian origin settled/working in foreign multinational firms in Costa Rica shared their success stories and experiences of working, living, and investing in Costa Rica. All spoke in one voice endorsing the business friendly, people friendly, peace loving and environment friendly ambience of Costa Rica.
Traditionally an agriculture-based economy centred around cotton,coffee, bananas, pineapples as principal commodities and exports, over the past 30 yearsCosta Rica has emerged as a hub for light manufacturing, technology and innovation and shared services and a logistics hub catering to both North and South America. The country offers significant EoDBand investment incentives for foreign companies desirous of setting up business in Costa Rica, including a special regime called Free Trade Zone benefit under which taxation is reduced to zero over a limited period of time with possibilities of extension, subject to continued investment in labour or fixed assets. With a robust services sector, Costa Rica is home to most top Fortune 500 companies.
The Costa Rica-India Association (CRIA) is an active community of Indian professionals based in Costa Rica whose primary goal is to create a bond both the cultures and facilitate a smooth transition for Indian professionals and familiesmoving into Costa Rica.
Dr.AparajitaGangopadhyay enriched the discussion in her role as moderator by recommending that the holistic approach to India-Costa Rica cooperation must be complemented by  and narrowed down to focus on specific areas and regions by sharing best practices such as replicating Costa Rica’s success in containing the spread of  Covid-19 in smaller Indian states like Goa, Jharkhand and Odisha.In the fields of tourism, wellness and hospitality Indian states like Kerala and Chhattisgarh can work together with Costa Rica.
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