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Palabras de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias en el acto de apertura de la IETF 2001

New Delhi, 14.02.2001

F

irst of all I should like to express my sincere satisfaction for being once again in New Delhi, the capital of this great country that is so dear to my family. About three and a half years ago I had the honour of inaugurating the Expotecnia?97 fair; and today, with an exciting and positive sense of renewal I am once again a privileged witness of the progress India and Spain have achieved in their will to advance as special partners. Allow me to express our deepest gratitude to the Indian Government and the CII for inviting Spain to be a ?Partner Country? at this 14th edition of the IETF, the 1st of the New Millennium.

Before I continue with my address let me offer a special thought for all those who were hit by the earthquake in Gujarat on the 26th of January: To the families of the thousands who passed away I wish to convey my sincerest condolences, and those expressed by Their Majesties and the millions of Spaniards who have followed the events of this tragedy with great concern. Also, to the survivors in this time of pain and suffering I wish to express our deepest feeling and sympathy, and likewise the desire of the Spanish government and the Spanish people to help the Government of India ?as they are already doing? to alleviate as much as possible the suffering caused by this terrible natural disaster.

With our determination to work for our mutual progress and without forgetting all those who suffer, we have ahead of us here today in the Pragati Maidan a great opportunity to leap forward and benefit from the resources and support that these events behold.

Mr. President/ Ladies and Gentlemen

I am fully aware of the importance for Spain to be present at the IETF. We value your invitation as a great opportunity, since it is one of the most reputed fairs in Asia. Clearly we can attribute such a success to the Confederation of Indian Industry, whose far-sightedness and efforts have made this the premier showroom for the promotion of engineering and exchange of industrial products, with a special focus on technology.

The painstaking organisation and the constant improvement in the quality of these events has attracted ever-growing numbers of companies from Asia and other continents at successive editions of this Fair. It has also stimulated significant growth of reciprocal relations and a considerable improvement in the geographical deployment of resources coming from the many nations that participate.

I am convinced that our presence here will encourage a qualitative renewal of the cooperative ties linking Spain and India, to the benefit of both countries. Let us remember that we are two great nations that view with pride our cultural roots and millenary history and that share today similar concerns and goals in the ongoing process of modernisation and opening to the new interconnected global Market.

But notwithstanding the efforts we have both made in opening up our economies and in showing each other the wonders of the goods and services that we have to offer, our bilateral economic relations have yet to reach their full potential.

These relations are still at a stage that could be described as ?nascent?. I would go even further and say that they fall very far short of what one might normally expect given the specific weight of both countries in the economic sphere.

Whether the cause be Spain?s traditional tendency to trade with Europe and Latin America, or the foreign economic policy pursued by India since 1991 in defence of her domestic markets, the fact is that until now there has been very little trade between India and Spain. In view of this fact and the equally low level of trade between Spain and the rest of Asia, the Spanish government has drawn up and presented to Parliament a Plan, known as Asia/Pacific 2000-2002, which is designed to increase our commercial ties with this part of the world and to foster joint ventures between Spanish and Asian enterprises. India is of course a nation of particular importance and therefore draws special emphasis and attention from this Plan.

We have to realise that the geographical distance which had always been in the way of our countries coming closer together, is today largely offset by developments in information technology. With the new powerful tools in our hands we can save both time and money while making it possible to exchange financial services and technical cooperation. Also, these advantages provide a degree of closeness and awareness that broaden our knowledge and interest in each other. That alone can make up for the centuries of living so far apart.

The spectacular reduction of costs it all implies will undoubtedly encourage trade between our countries and stimulate Spanish investment in India, more so if your growth record throughout the past decade keeps a steady course in the coming years. We dearly hope so, and wish that your ongoing economic reforms, and the further liberalising and deregulating measures introduced will level the existing imbalances.

In this context of reform, proposed and desired by the Indian government, your country looks set to become one of the world?s top ten markets in absolute terms. And if Spain keeps developing as she has done over the last few years, then this cannot but galvanise the exchanges between our two countries, turning the ?low-key? situation of economic and commercial relations today into just another thing of the past.

While we are confident about the fulfilment of these prospects, we should not ignore the role of the public authorities in this process. Through the Instituto de Comercio Exterior (ICEX), the Spanish government has already embarked on a series of initiatives, especially since Expotecnia 1997, also held here in New Delhi.

ICEX has promoted trade missions by businessmen and has organised seminars and technical conferences on specific sectors. It has also been present at many trade fairs, including India Expo where the Spanish attendance has quadrupled since 1997.

All these activities are no more than a necessary precondition for the process to take off. But above all it is up to businessmen to take on the responsibility and the risk of weaving a stronger web of trade and financial relations between Spain and India.

We are determined here today to live up to the distinction of being a Partner Country, an honour we share with the European, North American and Asian countries which have been similarly distinguished in the past.

We intend to do this, in the first place through the number of exhibitors present here (155) and the space occupied by our stands, I believe the largest ever to date.

But above all we are counting on those industries present at the fair, which are a living proof of the high standards that Spain has achieved in Industrial Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Technology, Large-scale Projects, Agricultural Machinery and Technology, Instrumentation and Control Equipment, Building Materials and Equipment, and finally Institutional and Financial Services.

This exhibition of our most modern industrial and high-tech products is undoubtedly a great opportunity to make acquaintances and do business, one which we hope will prove beneficial for everyone here.

We also have high hopes placed in the Forum for Business Investment and Cooperation which I will have the honour of inaugurating tomorrow, and which I am sure will likewise produce mutually beneficial exchanges.

A Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, referring to the constant need to achieve progress, once suggested that there is no such thing as easy change, ending with the line ?se hace camino al andar?, which roughly translated means that the path is made by treading it. In this sense, I hope that public authorities, institutions and the business communities of both countries will maintain the resolve that our two peoples should tread the path of progress in a spirit of determination and optimism, paving the way to a future based on the solid foundations we are now providing.

I thank you for your attention.

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