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New Delhi, May 20 (PTI) India and Mexico are all set to sign a bilateral investment protection agreement

(BIPA) tomorrow that will enable India Inc to access North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)- a trading block comprising of Mexico, the US and Canada. The agreement, for which the Union Cabinet gave its approval on May 18, is expected to be signed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the visiting Mexican Finance Minister M Eduardo Sojo Garza-Aldape, sources said. Mexico, being part of Nafta and having a large number of important partners including the EU, offers good opportunity to Indian companies and enhanced market access through investments and joint ventures, said an official source. NAFTA, created in 1994, has become a powerful trade body with strong trading relations with European, African and Latin American markets. Over the years, India has maintained good relations with Mexico. Bilateral trade between the two countries has increased to USD 1.5 billion from USD 251 million in 1999. Among others, Indian exports to Mexico are engineering goods, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, and textiles, while Mexican exports to India are dominated by crude and petrochemicals. Mexico's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated at USD 768 billion and per capita is around USD 8,000. Investors of Indian origin have pumped in over USD 1.6 billion over 60 business ventures in Mexico, apart from recent joint ventures in pharmaceuticals and IT sectors by Indian companies.

Important sectors with strong Indian exports are engineering goods, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, and textiles. Mexican exports to India are dominated by crude and petrochemicals. According to the latest figures, investors of Indian origin have invested over $1.6 billion in over 67 business ventures in Mexico the scenario dominated by LN Mittal group in steel and related sectors in Mexico. Besides, new joint ventures have recently been signed in pharmaceuticals and IT sectors. With proximity to the US, the joint ventures would enable Indian companies to increase their presence in the US, the country's largest trading partner. It's here the benefits enshrined under Safta would help Indian investors. India has maintained good relations with Mexico. Government leaders of the two countries have met in both the countries on several occasions. A reflection of good relations is the growing India-Mexico trade. From the level of $251 million in 1999, the total trade between the two countries has now crossed $ 1.5billion mark.