Two of India’s largest banks are to open branches offering trade finance services in China.

ICICI, India’s largest bank, is expected to open a Chinese branch this year – further evidence of the strengthening of trade relations between the two BRIC economies. The bank’s president Vijay Chandok tells GTR in a statement: “ICICI Bank has received the permission from the Reserve Bank of India to upgrade its representative office to a branch in China. The bank is under discussions with the Chinese regulatory authorities for necessary approvals.”

The country’s third largest bank Axis is also to open a Chinese branch. The bank’s CEO Shikha Sharma told the Financial Times that it has received permission from Chinese authorities to open a Shanghai office, which it’s expected will be used to assist Indian companies exporting or hoping to export into China.

The countries signed a bilateral agreement in November 2011 targeting total trade volumes of US$100bn by 2015, which would be up from US$2.3bn in 2003. The move to open Chinese branches of Indian banks will be seen as an attempt to even the scales: in 2012, a quarter of India’s trade deficit was accounted for by Chinese imports.