Interview: The Economic Times (Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury)
The Economic Times: Luxembourg has been a strong economic partner of India in the European Union. In the 2020 virtual summit three MoUs were signed -India International Exchange and Luxembourg Stock Exchange; State Bank of India and Luxembourg Stock Exchange; Invest India and Luxinnovation. Can you elaborate on the progress in the economic partnership based on these three MoUs.
Jean Asselborn: Indeed, the economic cooperation between Luxembourg and India has grown over the years. As you rightly mentioned, three MoUs were signed in the margins of the virtual bilateral summit between Prime Minister Bettel and Prime Minister Modi in November 2020 and significant developments have taken place since. To name but a few, I would e.g. like to highlight the dual listing of USD 650 million green bonds from the State Bank of India (SBI) at Luxembourg Stock Exchange (LuxSE) and India International Exchange (India INK) in Gandhinagar last November. This was a milestone as it was the first dual listing from an Indian company at LuxSE and India INK. In order to pave the ground for a future cooperation in the financial sector, another key development which took place last year was the signing of an Moll between our financial regulators i.e. the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Here I may recall here that the Luxembourg financial ecosystem, with 125 banks, more than 5000 management companies and more than 3500 funds in its jurisdiction, is the 2nd biggest centre in the world for investment funds after the US. Post Brexit, Luxembourg has also emerged as an important hub for financial companies, which were previously operating in the UK. Specific to the area of payments, Luxembourg's strong payment ecosystem has attracted companies such as Amazon and PayPal, which serve global markets from Luxembourg. And on the investment side, the Luxembourg based global leader in vaccine cold chain for over 4 decades, B Medical Systems, has started producing sophisticated medical cold chain equipments in India from their manufacturing facility in Mundra, Gujarat after its launch in January this year. The company is thereby contributing to 'Make in India'. This cooperation was possible due to the full support provided by both governments, the relevant authorities, as well as investment agencies such as Invest India. As of today, B Medical Systems has registered more than 100 patents in Luxembourg alone and its products are considered as indispensable in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Economic Times: What are Luxembourg's plans to enhance financial sector cooperation with India?
Jean Asselborn: Some of Luxembourg's overall priorities also apply to the financial sector. My country has been actively pioneering initiatives targeting social responsibility, environmental protection, and measures to curb climate change for years. And hence it did not come as a surprise that Luxembourg was indeed the first European country, as well as the first AAA-rated country worldwide, to have launched its sustainability bond framework, in September 2020. And briefly afterwards this was followed by the launch of a sustainability bond. I may also recall that the Luxembourg Stock Exchange (LuxSE), was the 2nd Stock Exchange in the world to list Masala Bonds, bonds in Indian rupees, in 1998. Currently, more than 50 Indian companies have their Global Depository Receipts (GDR) listed at the LuxSE. Today, 5 years after the launch of the Luxembourg Green Exchange, LGX has become the world's leading platform for sustainable finance with over 1,200 sustainable bonds on display, totaling more than USD 725 billion. And with an increased interest of Indian companies in sustainable finance and investment amidst the push from Indian Government, Luxembourg indeed presents a gateway for Indian investors for the listing of sustainable securities and bonds. Luxembourg stands ready to further explore how our solutions can help India make its mark in the field of sustainable finance.
The Economic Times: India and Luxembourg have a longstanding cooperation in the Steel sector. What are plans to expand this cooperation?
Jean Asselborn: Between the mid-19th Century and the late 20th Century, Luxembourg's fate was intrinsically linked to the steel industry. It brought fortune to the country and its population, and left a significant mark on Luxembourg's economy and its society. As you rightly pointed out, the cooperation between Luxembourg and India in the steel sector is one of the oldest ones. In the past, the Luxembourg-based steel company, Paul Wurth has worked with various steel producing companies in India and has been equipping their blast furnaces. And it continues to do so today. Let me also highlight that the Luxembourg headquartered ArcelorMittal, one of the largest steel producing companies worldwide, is contributing actively to 'Make in India' through the presence of ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AM/NS) across different states in India. ArcelorMittal has committed an investment of more than EUR 20 billion in the state of Gujarat and another EUR 12 billion in the state of Odisha among other investments across different projects in India. Through the key projects it is implementing in India, it continues to contribute to India's development. Going forward, I believe that the cooperation in the steel sector will continue to develop and will further strengthen the relations between the two countries.
The Economic Times: What are plans for expansion of partnership in the space sector?
Jean Asselborn: There are immense opportunities for cooperation in the space sector between Luxembourg and India. I am happy to note that Luxembourg and India have entered into a space cooperation earlier this year, which will allow for further engagement between the space agencies of the two countries i.e. Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). I was also happy to learn about the recent cooperation between Luxembourg based global leader in operational satellites, SES, which entered into a jointventure with India's Reliance Jio to provide high performance satellite based broadband services in India. And at this point I may also recall the launch of 4 nanosatellites of the Luxembourg based company, Kleos Space, from ISRO's PSLV C-49 mission in November 2020. This cooperation underlines the existing strong relations in this sector. Today, Luxembourg's space sector contribution to the GDP is amongst the highest in Europe, and the Government has taken concrete steps to support and encourage commercial space ventures, including through the creation of a Masters in Space Programme at the University of Luxembourg. This interdisciplinary programme, which has been developed jointly with the Luxembourg Space Agency, prepares students for a successful career in the dynamic, growing commercial space sector. We hope that this programme will continue to attract interest from the Indian students, who wish to pursue their higher studies in Luxembourg. And finally, I wish to highlight the opportunities for the Indian startups in Luxembourg which houses the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC). In addition, accelerator programmes in Luxembourg, such as `Fit4Stare, have in the past attracted interest from Indian startups not only in the space sector but also more widely from other sectors like as ICT, Fin Tech and Health Tech.