Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New consulates starting in Bangalore

New consulates starting in Bangalore
Financial Chronicle

THE European Union (EU) is gearing up for increased bilateral trade with India, compelling more countries to open full-fledged consulate services in Bangalore by the year-end. Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan plan to open consulates in Bangalore, because of huge volumes of bilateral trade and an increased presence of their companies and citizens.

Currently, Chennai serves as the visa-processing hub for people from southern Indian cities looking to visit the EU. During 2006-07, the EU issued 7,50,000 visas to Indian citizens. Of this, 60-70 percent were for Shenghen visas. In the same period, 5,51,000 visas were issued by the US, according to Rajeev Nangia of TRAC India, a company representing seven tourism boards including Spain.

From a handful, Bangalore now plays host to nearly 20 trade offices from across the globe, and not surprisingly, a majority are non-US countries. The eco nomic downturn in the US has also helped the EU to position themselves as alternative and lucrative markets.

“Awareness about the Indian market is very strong in the EU, but we are now looking to collaborate with companies here in various sectors,” says Stefan Graf, consul general of Germany.

Bilateral trade potential between India and Germany, for instance, is expected to reach $30 billion by 2010.

Graf says 57 per cent of total visas processed in Chennai are from Bangalore and Kerala. “The southern zone processes something like 40,000 visas a year and we are expecting this to increase,” he adds.

France, for instance, has over 12,000 French nationals living in India according to the latest available statistics for end-2006. A substantial majority have made Bangalore their home due to the commercial ties with the city’s aviation, space, aeronautical and IT segments.

Accordingly, France plans to reopen its trade office in Kolkata by the year-end.


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