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Speech by President of Croatia at the India-Croatia Business Forum (27 March 2019)

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Speech of H.E. Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President of the Republic of Croatia
At the
Croatian – Indian Business Forum
(27 March 2019)

Respectful President Kovind,
Respectful Presidents of the Chambers of Commerce,
Respectful representatives of Croatian and Indian economies,  
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure today to participate at the Croatian - Indian Economic Forum, organised for the occasion of the State visit to the Republic of Croatia of respectful President of the Republic of India. I would say: it was about the time for such a visit, and, hence, please allow me to congratulate our hosts from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, employees of the Indian Embassy in the Republic of Croatia, and to all those who have contributed to organisation of this Forum. Equally, I would like to thank to all of you who participate in the work of the Forum.

            I am glad, Mister President, that your visit is taking place in a very cordially and friendly atmosphere, and that an incentive for further strengthening of the economic cooperation will be given to our business communities, whose highly esteemed representatives participate in the work of this Forum. I have no doubts that Your visit to Croatia will set the qualitative foundation for expansion of our economic cooperation and that our companies will realise their interest for cooperation, to the benefit and pleasure of both sides.  
Ladies and gentlemen,
Respectful businessmen,
Croatia has been, from year to year, noticing a constant increase of arrivals and overnights of Indian tourists. In 2018, Croatia was visited by almost ten times more tourists (64.444) from India than in, not so far away, year 2011 (3.630).
            I would like that our economic cooperation also notifies such a growth, because Croatia is not just a beautiful country for tourism, with wonderful nature and rich history, but it is also a country of great development potentials.
            In the Republic of Croatia an equal treatment is given to both domestic and foreign investors. In order to increase the foreign direct investments and to increase the competitiveness of Croatian economy, the legislative framework for investment promotion has been constantly improved. For their investment projects, the investors can use numerous incentives, such as subsidiaries and grants, and tax relieves. I am inviting you, dear Indian friends, to investigate Croatian comparative advantages as concern investments and incentive measures that promote investment. I believe that Indian investors who already make business in the Republic of Croatia can give you an evidence of that.  
            Increasing the economic cooperation therefore offers great opportunities. And that cooperation is currently modest and does not follow good touristic figures and our friendly political relations. In 2018, our common trade exchange amounted to 162,7 million USD, and in that modest exchange the share of Croatian export amounted to less than 10%.

            I believe that we can change that situation by cooperation and exchange of experience in the area of ICT technologies, where India has a leading role at the global level, but where Croatia has also something to say. I would like to emphasise good practice examples of Croatian IT companies that have representatives in India, and I would like to greet the investment of the Indian company Infosys, that, in its Development Centre in Karlovac, has employed numerous engineers, contributing in such a way to prevent the brain-drain of highly qualified workforce out of Croatia.    

            Defence sector can also become an area of an increased cooperation between Croatia and India. Perhaps it is enough to say that today the Croatian soldier is fully equipped with Croatian arms and equipment, while the companies that produce such equipment achieve, at the global level, excellent results, which is a result of first and foremost, their competitiveness and quality.   

            As a possible area for cooperation, I would emphasise also small and large shipbuilding, where Croatia has a long-standing tradition, but also a large scientific and research infrastructure, of the world reputation.
            Our pharmaceutical companies have achieved numerous successful cooperation deals and investments, but I believe that there is a great space for further developing our cooperation in the area of health and medicine.
            I think that it is very important to emphasise the geographic position of Croatia. Located at the crossroads of Western and Southeast Europe, Croatia is a very suitable country for the transit traffic.

            The seaport of Rijeka is the biggest transport port in Croatia and one of the most important ports for connecting Far East and Central Europe, with the shortest transit time for transport. Therefore, I use this opportunity to invite Indian exporters to use all advantages and capacities of our ports while exporting to Europe.
            I especially greet the cooperation agreements that will be today signed between the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Chambers. I am convinced that this cooperation will contribute to an advancement of not only economic, but of overall relations between our friendly States.

            Another agreement that I would be glad to see signed is the Agreement of Free Trade between India and European Union. In that respect, I express my hope that negotiations about that Free trade Agreement will be re-open, as it will offer, along with existent bilateral agreements on economic cooperation and for the avoidance of double taxation, a good legal framework for the further development of economic cooperation between our two countries. The Agreement of Free Trade would open new and larger possibilities for a more affordable trade between Croatia and India, and Croatia will certainly advocate for re-opening of the negotiations and enactment of the mentioned Agreement.

            Finally, allow me to repeat that Croatia, committed to settlement of even closer economic and business connections between our two countries, will continue to be a reliable partner to Indian businessmen.

            It will be my pleasure, together with you, Mister President, to follow and promote the development of cooperation between our countries, that, I am convinced, has a bright future. Croatian institutions, my Office and me personally, stay fully open for the cooperation.

Thank you for attention.