By Aroonim Bhuyan,
New Delhi : The East European nation of Moldova is wooing Indian investors in the areas of textiles, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and IT among others as it is set to open an embassy in this country in 2019, 28 years after attaining independence following the dissolution of the USSR.
“This year I took the decision of opening three new embassies from the beginning of next year – in Argentina, in Ghana and, of course, number one in India,” Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Tudor Ullanovschi told IANS in an exclusive interview here.
Ullanovschi, who assumed office in January this year, is the first Moldovan Foreign Minister to visit India after the country came into being in 1991.
“We have a strong interest in increasing our trade balance,” he said. “At this point we have 30-plus million euros (around $34 million/over Rs 2 billion) of bilateral trade.”
Stating that Moldova imports much more from India than it exports, he said both countries have agreed to synchronise the certification of food and agricultural products.
“Moldova has organic fruits and vegetables. We have very good quality apples, plums, walnuts, and other types of fruits as also sunflower oil, grains, cereals,” he said.
“So the export of Moldovan agricultural products is a priority that we have.”
Ullanovschi also said that Indian producers can use the “extremely high quality” agricultural land in his country.
He said that Moldova invites Indian companies to explore its market because of the advantageous position it is in.
Moldova has free trade agreements with the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and Turkey.
“Now we are discussing a free trade agreement with EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries – Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland,” the Foreign Minister said.
“The Moldovan government provides extraordinary fiscal incentives for investments. If a company invests more than $1 million in a free economic zone in Moldova, it does not have to pay taxes for three years.”
Ullanovschi said that he would like to send a message Indian companies, be it in textiles or pharmaceuticals, involved in production activities to come to Moldova.
“In September, we are going to send a delegation of 10-12 textile business people of Moldova to India to see what are the benefits of cooperation to either buy yarn or fabric from India,” he said.
He also said that of the around 300 Indians living in Moldova, over 280 are students of the Moldova State University of Medicine and Pharmacy in the country’s capital Chisinau.
He said that another area of interest for both Moldova and India is the IT and ICT sector.
“Moldova is among the top 10 countries with the fastest internet speed in the world,” Ullanovschi said.
Stating that his country has a unique tax system for the IT sector, he said: “If a foreign company invests in the IT sector in Moldova, there is only one tax of 7 per cent. You invest and you will have a successful business in the IT sector.”
Ullanovschi said that both Moldova and India have nearly finalised a memorandum of understanding on setting up ICT knowledge centres in both countries.
He also said that his country is interested in an economic and trade agreement as also a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with India.
He stressed on a visa agreement between Moldova and India as Indians need an invitation from Moldova to visit that country now.
“We have to remove the barriers between our countries, so people can travel freely for tourism to flourish,” Ullanovschi said.
In this connection, he said that his country is also interested in signing an air services agreement with India.
“The Republic of Moldova is a member of the European Common Aviation Area and there is no limit in the number of flights from Moldova to the EU,” he said.
“One idea could be to sign an inter-airline or code-share agreement between the Moldovan airlines and Indian air operators.”
Stating that there was 35 per cent increase in the number of Indian tourists to Spain after Indian films were shot in that country, the Moldovan Minister invited Bollywood to explore his country.
With Moldova being one of the top wine exporters in the world, another point of interest for Indian tourists, Ullaovschi said, will be the 200-km-long underground wine cellar in his country, which figures in Guinness World Records for being the world’s largest.
For Moldovans, an area of interest in India is medical tourism.
“We are thinking of vacation packages that will include consulting doctors in India and then going on vacation to places like Goa,” Ullanovschi said.
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)