India tries to assuage South Korea on POSCO issue

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Union Commerce and Trade Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday said that India values South Korean investment despite the row over its POSCO steel project in Orissa over issues related to land and environment.
Anand Sharma, who is accompanying Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on his three nation Asian tour and reached Vietnam this evening, said such an assurance would be given to South Korean officials.
He said that in case of issues which resulted in delay in getting clearances would be looked into deeply by the government .  "When they come up for discussions in the meetings, we will be able to reassure the Korean leadership and their business that investments would be encouraged and any issue which is still required to be settled , will be addressed in a constructive manner.”
Pointing out that South Korean investment was appreciated in India, particularly in steel and automobile manufacturing, Sharma said: “The government of India is appreciative of Korea’s engagement, which includes car manufacturing, manufacturing of the consumer goods where Koreans have a major presence now in India and also in steel making.”
He said New Delhi had looked into issues that have delayed environmental clearances to South Korean projects in India.
In 2005, South Korean firm Pohang Iron and Steel Co or, the POSCO had signed a deal with the Orissa government for establishing the 12 billion dollar mega steel project near the port town of Paradip, around 100 kilometres from Bhubaneshwar, by 2016.
POSCO requires nearly 4,000 acres, mostly government land, for its project. But of the total land earmarked, 2,900 acres happens to be forestland.
People have held rallies against the project, saying it will displace them and ruin their betel leaf farms. POSCO and the Orissa government maintain that the project will  bring prosperity and employment to a poverty stricken region.
On the issue of Foreign Direct Investment, Sharma said, “India has allowed FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in single brand retail up to 51 percent ………… some of the major investors including Iqua group, they have made a request that they want to increase their investments because they are doing 30 percent of their sourcing from India, which could generate employment. The government would be considering that by putting it in a consultation process.”
Stating that at present India allows 26 percent FDI in defence, Sharma said: “We also have permitted Indian private sector  to have 100 percent equity in the defence production.”
“Go back six years, even the Indian private sector was not allowed entry in defence production, let alone the foreign investors. Indian private sector, Indian defence PSU’S have entered into many significant technology collaborations and joint partnership ventures with major defence manufacturers in the world,” he added.

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