Kolkata, Nov 29 (PTI) West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Thursday called for stronger ties with the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region saying that the state was willing to play a bigger role in securing closer economic relations with the region.

The LAC is an extensive area, extending from Bahamas to Chile and Argentina.

Speaking at the India-LAC business cooperation meeting organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here, Mitra said that in the last 4-5 years, diplomatic relations with the region has slowed down.

“Only five leaders (from the LAC) had visited India compared to 10-15 leaders visiting earlier,” he said.

Mitra also called for more Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with the LAC region since it has “taken a backseat” under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

Trade between India and the LAC region has grown from USD 2 billion in 2000 to USD 35 billion in 2017-18.

In October, the 8th India-LAC Conclave was held in Chile.

“After slowdown in trade and diplomatic relations, Bengal will now play a role in the economic domain with state-to-state level cooperation,” he said.

This is the first time that such a huge delegation of ambassadors from the LAC countries visted West Bengal.

Ambassadors of 18 countries including Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Ecuador, Argentina, Panama, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, Suriname, Bolivia, and Uruguay were part of the meeting on Thursday.

Mitra said there should be sector-specific engagements in areas like leather, textile, manufacturing and Information Technology. He also invited them to the next Business Summit in the state which is likely to be held in January 2019.

In Bengal Global Business Summit, the state’s showpiece business meet, Mitra expects the number of partner countries to increase this year. Last year, the summit had 9 partnet countries.

Mitra said that already 6 partner countries have confirmed participation while talks are on with 4-5 others.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.