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Hindu businesses eye FTAs and Thai, Asean markets

HINDU business people worldwide aim to push the combined Hindu contribution to global gross domestic product to 35 per cent in the next 20 years, from just 5-6 per cent currently, by integrating their businesses with other communities and focusing more on the Asean market following emerging growth in the region.

Moreover, a Thailand-India comprehensive free-trade agreement (FTA), which is expected to be achieved soon, should enable the world's second most populous nation, India - the majority of whose citizens are Hindus - to promote bilateral trade with Thailand to US$14 billion (Bt433 billion) in the next five years.

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Susheel Kumar Saraff, president of the India-Thailand Chamber of Commerce, said the FTA between the two countries should be concluded by October.

After implementation, it will promote a freer flow of trade in more than 2,000 goods and services, as well as an increase in investment by the two sides.

The FTA will strongly increase bilateral trade and investment opportunities and, with Thailand at the centre of Asean, both the pact and the Asean-India FTA will make increased trade and other business sustainable, he added.

"The integration with Asean and Thailand will also particularly help promote GDP growth of the Hindu community under the plan to promote the global GDP contribution of Hindu people to 35 per cent, as it was a thousand year ago," he said.

To strengthen the power of Hindu business, as well as create linkage between Hindu businesses and other communities in the world market, the World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) was initiated to create a platform for synergising positive and mutually beneficial networking for Hindu business people and others.

The "Second WHEF 2013" is scheduled to take place on August 10-11, at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, Bangkok.

Susheel, who is also chairman of the WHEF Organising Committee, said Thailand had been chosen to host the forum this year as the Kingdom is considered as being at the centre of Asean. With the region's strong integration and attractiveness, Hindu businesses would like to forge closer ties with Thai and Asean businesses, as well as with those in other countries, he said.

Bangkok has been chosen as the venue not only because of its historical significance from the traditional links between Thailand and Hindu philosophy, but also due to its strategic location as a regional hub and important gateway for all Asean economies, he added. Moreover, Thailand is a very attractive location for investment, said Susheel.

With the building of roadway connectivity from India's Assam State, to Mandalay in Myanmar, and on to Mae Sot in Thailand, trade and logistics from India to Asean will be more convenient, he said, adding that the road connection from India, through Myanmar to Thailand, has shortened the time taken to move goods and lessened the cost of transportation.

Investment in Africa

Last year, the first WHEF - held in Hong Kong - succeeded in promoting Hindu entrepreneurs' investment in Africa. This year, the forum is expected to attract some 500 delegates from more than 30 countries around the world, including Asean nations, with over 30 distinguished speakers covering a wide range of topics.

The focus will be on the tremendous opportunities in Asean, particularly in the jewellery and software sectors.

The organising committee plans to hold the event in New Delhi next year, and in London in 2015.

This year's forum will attract experts in fields ranging from banking to industry, who will aim to stimulate intra-Hindu community development before expanding the linkage to the global stage, he said.

Beside knowledge and information exchange during the forum, the WHEF will help bridge business links and expand networks among participants and their organisations.

The forum aims to boost prosperity within the Hindu community, as well as in the societies in which Hindus live, with sustainable growth before expanding the wealth to other parts of the world.

The Hindu world, with its population exceeding one billion, and the 600 million people living in Asean represent enormous and mutually beneficial markets, Susheel added.


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