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Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and Germany

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Steinbeis GmbH Co. 
•    KG for Technologie transfer, Germany on technology resourcing in manufacturing, including sub-sectors of CapitalGoods. 
•    The MoU was signed on 25th April, 2016 during the Industrial Exhibition Hannover Messe 2016 in Hannover, Germany. 
•    Steinbeis GmbH is leading organization for applied industrial research in Europe. It will act as a Technology Resource Partner for implementing identified projects in manufacturing. 
•    The field of cooperation envisaged in the MoU are: 

a) Profiling of specific technologies; 
b) technology road mapping for specified Capital Goods sub-sectors, 
c) assessment of technology status of Capital Goods Cluster; 
d) cooperation in events on technology; and
e) upgrading existing technology institutes / setting up Greenfield institutes in India and other technology related co-operation and collaboration. 
The MoU is a framework instrument to facilitate industrial technology projects by Indian Capital Goods Sector. The MoU will provide a platform to various public sector undertakings and Capital Goods Sector units to have easy access to capabilities and expertise of Steinbeis GmbH for identifying and plugging technology gaps. 

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Govt approves double taxation avoidance agreement with Belgium

The Cabinet has approved the signing of a protocol amending an agreement between India and Belgium for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

•    The amendment in the protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information between the two countries, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance, an official statement said.
•    The protocol will also revise the existing treaty provisions on mutual assistance in collection of taxes, it added.
•    The decision regarding this was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
•    Earlier, the government had revised the double taxation avoidance agreement with Mauritius and is in the process of amending pacts with Singapore and other nations.
•    India is revising these pacts to check abuse of tax treaty.

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Nagpur and the Chinese city of Jinan on Monday became 'sister cities' after signing a pact

Nagpur City and China's Jinan city have become sister cities for exchange of ideas and technology. Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and Jinan, Municipal People's Republic of China, entered into an agreement on Monday to develop sister city relationship between the two cities.
•    Municipal commissioner Shravan Hardikar and director of Jinan Municipal People's Congress Xu Changyu signed the agreement. Mayor Pravin Datke and other officials of NMC and Jinan were present.
•    The move is a part of agreement signed between union ministry of external affairs and ministry of foreign affairs, People's Republic of China, for facilitating cooperation and linkages between cities of the two countries and states/provinces on May 20, 2013.
•    Hardikar gave a presentation on NMC's developmental projects and also gave details of the city. Xu Changyu spoke in detail about Jinan and its expertise in fields of education, culture, development of rivers, urban planning etc. 
•    He also suggested that NMC send students from the city to Jinan for seeking knowledge about various technologies.
•    Mayor Pravin Datke said Jinan's assistance could be taken for improvement of education, orange products production and mining activities.
•    NMC may also seek Jinan's cooperation in the field of sports, youth affairs, urban planning, waste water management, infrastructure, environment, public health and exchange of trade and commercial delegations. 
•    The agreement was executed for five years and can be extended by another five years. The two cities can part ways by giving a three months' prior notice. 

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India and Thailand have signed two agreements in culture and educational sectors to boost bilateral ties.

India and Thailand on 17 June 2016 signed two agreements that are aimed at enhancing cooperation in culture as well as educational sectors.
•    The set of agreements pertains to extension of the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for 2016-19 and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nagaland University and Thailand’s Chiang Mai University.
•    The agreements were signed in New Delhi during the 3-day visit of Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha that concluded on 18 June 2016.
•    During the visit, he held talks with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a wide range of issues that are of concern for both the countries and the region as a whole.
•    At the end of the summit level meeting, a joint statement that mentioned cooperation in areas like maritime security, cyber security, military and intelligence cooperation among others.
•    India's relations with Thailand are an important and integral component of India's strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
•    India's 'Act East' policy is complemented by Thailand's 'Look West' policy in bringing the two countries closer.
•    They have strong economic synergies and the diversifying profile of growing bilateral trade and investment reflects the growth and maturity of the interaction between the two economies.
•    Extensive people-to-people contacts are central to the India-Thailand relationship. In 2015, more than 1 million Indian tourists visited Thailand and over 100000 Thai tourists visited India.
•    Two-way trade between India and Thailand stands at 8 billion US dollars. While export to Thailand from India is 2.63 billion US dollars, Thai imports reached 5.3 billion US dollars in 2015-16.
•    Beginning from 2004, 29 rounds of talks for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were conducted so far.
•    During the present visit, both the countries agreed to commence negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

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India, South Korea launches Korea Plus

India and South Korea on 18 June 2016 launched a special initiative, Korea Plus. The initiative aims at promoting and facilitating Korean Investments in India.
The platform was launched by the Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Joo Hyunghwan, the Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy, Government of Korea.
•    The mandate of Korea Plus covers the entire investment spectrum including supporting Korean enterprises entering the Indian market for the first time.
•    It will look into issues faced by Korean companies doing business in India and policy advocacy to the Union Government on their behalf.
•    It will act as a mediator in arranging meetings, assisting in public relations and research/evaluation
•    It will provide information and counseling in regard to Korean companies’ investing in India.
It comprises of a representative from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy, Government of Korea and representative from Korea Trade Investment and Promotion Agency (KOTRA). Besides, it also includes three representatives from Invest India.
The two nations inked a MoU for establishing Korea Plus in January 2016. This MOU came as an outcome of the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to South Korea in May 2015.

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Transit facility becomes operational between India and Bangladesh

India-Bangladesh transit facility under the revised Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol became operational between Kolkata-Ashuganj-Tripura on 16 June 2016.

The transit facility was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015 to boost trade and facilitate seamless movement of goods in the Bangladesh region.
The trans-shipment operations were launched at the Ashuganj port with a cargo vessel unloading the maiden consignment to be transported to Tripura through Bangladeshi territory.
The first ship from Kolkata carrying 1000 tonnes of steel and iron sheets reached Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh.
•    The facility that runs through Bangladesh territory cuts the Kolkata-Agartala via Siliguri’s ‘chicken neck’ distance from 1600 kilometers to 800 kilometers.
•    It will reduce the time of the journey from 30 days to 10 days.
•    It will reduce the transportation costs from 67 US dollars to 35 US dollars per tonne while transporting from mainland India to the north-eastern states.
•    India pays transit fees of 192.25 dollars per tonne as negotiated between India and Bangladesh.
•    Inland Water Transit & Trade Protocol
•    The revised Inland Water Transit & Trade Protocol under India-Bangladesh Bilateral Trade Agreement gives India and Bangladesh the right to each other’s territory for transiting goods to third countries.
•    The Kolkata-Ashuganj-Tripura transit route gives mainland India easier and cheaper access to the seven northeastern states.
•    Bangladesh can use Indian Territory to transit goods to Nepal and Bhutan while India can access Myanmar via Bangladesh.
•    The protocol facilitates trade and development not only between India and Bangladesh but in the entire sub-region facilitating trade and development in the sub-region.

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The Union Cabinet has approved MoU) between ISRO and CSA on cooperation in the field of outer space.

The Union Cabinet under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding between Department of Space / Indian Space Research Organization (DOS/ISRO) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on cooperation in the field of outer space. 
•    The MoU was signed in Ottawa, Canada on 15th April 2015. 
•    The MoU would lead to establishment of joint team, drawing members from ISRO and CSA, which will further work out the plan of action including examination and defining cooperative projects and the time-frame. 
•    This will also provide opportunities for diverse research in the field of peaceful uses of space technologies. 
•    The successful space cooperation is being pursued through two Implementing Arrangements in the field of Satellite Tracking Network Operations, and in the field of the ultra Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) Detector Subsystem, in support of the ASTROSAT astronomy mission in December 2003 and June 2004, respectively.
•    It is aimed at future cooperation in and use of outer space for peaceful purposes to reinforce scientific and technological development and the ties between two countries at government, industrial and academic levels.

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India and Taiwan approved MoU for cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sector.

The Union Cabinet on 15 June 2016 gave its ex-post facto approval to the MoU for the cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sector. Besides, the cabinet also gave its nod to the signing of Air Services Agreement between both the countries.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India and India Taipei Association in Taipei, Taiwan.
•    It provides for cooperation in the fields of Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Food Processing, Genetic Resources as well as Environmental Sustainability.
•    Both the signatories will encourage the private sector in both countries to enter into cooperation in these areas.
•    The cooperation between the two sides involves exchange of visits, information, technology and training and also expansion of agricultural trade while reducing trade barriers.
•    A Joint Working Committee will be constituted to identify priority areas of mutual interest and follow up on the progress of implementation of the activities identified by both sides.
•    The MoU will be initially signed for a period of five years and shall be automatically renewed for a subsequent periods of five years unless either party expresses its desire/intention to terminate it.
•    It will signed by India-Taipei Association in Taipei (India’s representative office in Taiwan) and Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (Taiwan’s representative office in India).
•    The agreement signifies an important landmark in the civil aviation relations between India and Taiwan.
•    It has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two parties.
•    At present, there is no formal air services agreement between both the countries.
•    The air services are governed by an MoU exchanged between Air India Charters Limited (AIRL) and Taipei Airlines Associations (TAA).

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India and Ghana have signed three bilateral agreements to strengthen co-operation in varied fields

India and Ghana on 13 June 2016 signed three bilateral agreements to strengthen co-operation in varied fields. The agreements were signed during the first ever visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Ghana, a nation on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea.
•    The three agreements signed with Ghana included one for visa waivers for holders of diplomatic and official passports and one for setting up a Joint Commission.
• The commission will periodically review various aspects of the multi-dimensional relationship between the two countries. A mutually convenient date for its first meeting will be decided later.
•    The third agreement was for collaboration in diplomatic training between the Indian Foreign Service Institute and a Ghanaian institute of the same standing.
•    India is the largest foreign investor in Ghana today, with more than 700 projects. More than 222 of these projects are in the manufacturing sector. 
•    Bilateral trade between India and Ghana has increased to 1.2 billion US dollars from 538 million US dollars in 2010. 
•    Ghana has also sought India’s civil nuclear cooperation to explore the possibilities of reducing its dependence on traditional energy sources to cut costs and focus on cleaner environment.
•    After hosting the third India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in New Delhi in October 2015, India is working on a plan to consolidate and further strengthen its engagement with Africa.

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India has joined a group of nearly 40 countries that have signed a Europe-led clampdown on tax evasion and corruption

India on 8 June 2016 signed a Europe-led scheme that seeks to clampdown on tax evasion and corruption by committing to automatically exchange information on beneficial ownership.
•    With this, India joined a group of nearly 40 nations that are signatories of a scheme.
•    Under the scheme, the signatories commits to the initiative to automatically exchange information on beneficial ownership.
•    The next stage will be for the development of a global standard for this exchange.
•    The scheme was announced in April 2015 by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
•    The signatories to the scheme will have to provide one another free access to information on who ultimately owns companies.
•    Besides India, some of the other countries outside Europe on the list include Afghanistan, Nigeria, Mexico and the UAE. Most European countries except Switzerland are part of this automatic exchange mechanism.
•    It seems that the step is in the direction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 election pledge in which he said that he will recover billions of dollars sent to tax havens abroad to avoid income tax.

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