China is committed to taking steps to reduce the yawning trade gap between the two countries by importing more sugar, non-Basmati rice and medicines, senior Chinese officials say.

Talking to this visiting Indian journalist recently, they said Beijing would also like to negotiate a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India to expand trade relations. In this connection, they pointed out that a feasibility study for FTA had been completed some ten years ago. Despite constant nudging by Beijing, India’s response had not been enthusiastic so far, they added.

The comments came even as New Delhi complained that China had not been allowing Indian IT and pharmaceutical companies easy access to the Chinese market. The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to soon co-chair the first meeting of high-level people-to-people and cultural exchange mechanism during which trade ties are also likely to figure prominently.

China is India’s largest trading partner. Last year, the bilateral trade volume reached $84.4 billion. More than 800 Chinese companies are currently doing business in India. The two countries have set a new bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2022.

The officials said the two countries could also encourage economic cooperation on major projects such as new industrial parks and high-speed railways. They pointed out that a Chinese company has helped India finish the feasibility study of the high-speed rail from Delhi to Chennai. Beijing has, meanwhile, proposed to the Indian side to start a pilot high-speed rail project from Delhi to Agra.

The officials recalled former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s oft-repeated remark that China has the best hardware while India has the best software. China and India working together could become world’s best.

The officials disclosed that in the city of Linyi, northern part of China, there was a software industry park with more than 100 Indian engineers working there with their families. India has also agreed to facilitate the establishment of Bank of China branch office in Mumbai.

They also recollected that in March this year, a trade delegation led by Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan purchased goods worthy of 2.4 billion USD in India.

They said China would encourage more and more Indian companies to participation in the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai this November. However, only four Indian companies have decided to participate in the expo so far. India’s participation at the recent ‘China-South Asia Expo’ in Kunming was, however, quite satisfactory with nearly 250 Indian companies taking part in it.

The officials said the two sides have also decided to move forward ‘China India Plus’ cooperation in Afghanistan, starting from joint training programme for Afghan civil servants.

The officials observed that India and China could also cooperate in the field of cinema, given the increasing popularity of ‘Bollywood’ films in China. They pointed out that ‘Bollywood’ star Aamir Khan had become a household name in China after the runaway success of the sports biopic ‘Dangal’.