The India Laos Trade Summit was held in New Delhi with the participation of the Ambassador of Laos to India. His Excellency Bounneme Chouanghom, presented the opportunities in the country and thanked the Indian Government for supporting ITEC programs for Indian Students.
He placed a thrust on the engagement of Indian companies in building infrastructure in Laos and invited various Indian companies to participate in the upcoming delegation to Laos. He appreciated the role of the India ASEAN Trade Council Trade Commissioners.
Council Trade Commissioners have an important part to play in the international relations of many states, particularly smaller states who are unable to afford the costs associated with establishing conventional diplomatic and consular missions. While Trade Commissioners cannot replace traditional diplomats, they can facilitate multiple deep engagements with political bodies, commercial organizations, nationals located abroad, and local state governments of states. Their engagements can take place on different levels, including political, commercial, and cultural. However, to best perform their role they need not only an understanding of the underlying legal aspects governing their role, but also practical skills to fulfill their duties and responsibilities.
Council Trade Commissioners are highly regarded and respected members of a community and part of the elite diplomatic groups. They come with privileges, influence, and perks. They fly flags on their offices, have access to industry and commercial officers at the governments, pass through the fast lane at immigration, and have their homes and offices as a representation of trade offices of various countries that are looking at building bilateral trade opportunities. They are recognized by international agencies for promoting trade and enjoy the same privileges as Ambassadors and other diplomatic officials.
Trade Commissioners are recognized in international law and theoretically enjoy the privileges. They are often locals appointed in cities too insignificant for professional consulates. Most work without pay and in an honorary capacity. They host Ambassadors and other ministers in their cities. Their numbers have been growing steadily in recent years, to more than 20,000 worldwide. Many represent small or fast-growing countries.
World travel is one reason for their growing ubiquity. Tourists range ever farther afield. When they fall ill or have run-ins with the law, embassies in national capitals are often too far away to provide assistance. New trade routes also generate demand for Trade Commissioners. Small African countries now do business with firms in provincial Indian cities.
Councils like the India Africa Trade Council, Latin American Federation, India ASEAN Trade Council, and India Pacific Islands Council appoint their Trade Commissioners based on age, experience, political and business connections, integrity, political views, and charisma. There is no election to win. Appointment as a Trade Commissioner depends largely on an individual being able to make an impression with politicians and government officials of a foreign country.
Trade Commissioners like Dr Radhakrishna have led many successful business delegations to Namibia and had the honour of being hosted by the Prime Minister of Namibia. Dr J Shrenik Nahar from Chennai has been very successful in forging business opportunities between India and Tanzania in various trades like coffee, cashews, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace collaboration. Rajendra Kumar Jain has been successfully working on supplying vehicles from Ashok Leyland to Zimbabwe and is working on other supplies to the African nation. The delegation led by Mr Jain was hosted by the Minister of Trade in Zimbabwe. Most of the Indian Embassies host the delegates headed by the Trade Commissioners. In 2021, Mr Timmy Mehta from Mumbai led the delegation to Kyrgyzstan who was welcomed by most of the ministries in Bishkek. There are various other Trade Commissioners who are working on building India’s relations with the foreign nations and delegations are in the pipeline to various South American and African nations.
One myth that should be dispersed immediately is that Trade Commissioner titles are not sold on the internet. To become a trade Commissioner, one must work with a diplomatic consultant or have a very strong international political network of their own. The consultant needs to know and understand the individual’s situation and intentions to connect them with the best suitable option. A great deal depends on where the person lives. It is difficult to become a Trade Commissioner in New York or Geneva since almost every country has representation in those cities. However, it is easier to get an appointment if one lives in large cities of big countries such as Houston, Miami, Toronto, Manchester, Mumbai, Chennai, or capitals of small countries such as Bratislava, Lisbon, San Jose, Bangalore. Interested candidates need to submit a CV and an essay with their application. The status, education, professional, scientific, or business accomplishments make a difference too. Most importantly, the sending country needs to see that the individual is the right person for the profile.