Cameron blows UK's trade horn on India visit

Marion Dakers

LONDON’S transport expertise and Tesco’s expansion plans will be high on the agenda during Prime Minister David Cameron’s trade mission to India this week.

Cameron will arrive in Mumbai today with a delegation of ministers and business bosses including Standard Chartered’s Peter Sands to speak with trade partners in India.

Transport for London has sent its director of capital programmes David Waboso to sign a deal with Mumbai and Hyderabad authorities to share information on building metro trans- port systems.

“These agreements will mean closer co-operation, and exchanges of information and learning that will benefit both parties,” said Waboso. “They also give the UK supply chain the chance to demonstrate its ability to deliver and will help UK businesses capitalise on opportunities in India.”

While Tesco is not sending its own representatives on the three-day trip, the supermarket is believed to have pressed the Prime Minister to discuss how India’s new rules on foreign direct investment can help UK retailers.

Indian leader Manmohan Singh last year won parliamentary approval for radical reforms to permit direct investment from overseas companies in Indian retail ventures.

Tesco is already involved in a handful of Indian hypermarkets under the Star Bazaar brand, in partnership with Tata, but is eyeing a big expansion if the investment conditions are right.

“We have welcomed moves in India to allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail and continue to review the conditions,” said a spokesperson.

Many of the 100-plus delegates accompanying Cameron are from small and medium sized enterprises. The Prime Minister will pledge £8m of government funding for a network of British Business Centres in India.

Other groups sending representatives include KPMG, HSBC, Blackstone, Triumph Motorcycles, the Open University, Debenhams and the Financial Services Authority.