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US, India aim to settle differences on trade issues

Last updated on: September 22, 2010 13:04 IST

US, India aim to settle differences on trade issues

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India and US have agreed to redouble their efforts to iron out the key trade and economic differences between both the countries before the visit of President Barack Obama to New Delhi in early November.

"We have underscored to the United States Trade Representative and the team the need to now further deepen and diversify the economic relationship and that should be the objective flowing out of the forthcoming visit of President Obama to India," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in Washington after the conclusion of the seventh Indo-US Trade Policy Forum meeting.

In a joint statement, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Sharma asked their officials to redouble their efforts towards addressing unresolved issues in an expeditious manner.

"Recognising that more can and should be done to strengthen our bilateral trade and investment relationship, we instructed our Focus Group leads and other staff to redouble their efforts, particularly in the coming weeks before President Obama's visit to India, to take concrete steps towards resolving several issues of concern and to keep senior officials regularly informed of the results of those efforts," the joint statement said.

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Image: US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma at US - India Trade Policy Forum in Washington

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Sharma and Kirk said the Trade Policy Forum gave them the opportunity to focus together on the state of the burgeoning US-India trade and investment relationship, which is becoming an increasingly significant factor in the economic life and prosperity of the two countries, as well as in the global economy.

"We held comprehensive discussions on a wide range of issues, identifying areas for future constructive engagement between the two trading partners. In doing so, we noted our shared goals of bringing growth and prosperity to our two peoples," the joint statement said.

"At the same time, we were also able to exchange concerns on issues where we differ, recognising that such issues are a natural part of growing trade and investment linkages between economies as dynamic as those of India and
the United States," it said.

The joint statement was particularly appreciative of the input provided by the Private Sector Advisory Group and the inaugural meeting of the US-India SME Forum.
 
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"Both of these institutions serve to remind us that - just as in the domestic economy - it is private enterprises, and especially those that are small and medium-sized, that are key to maximising the trade and investment flows that provide sustained employment, higher incomes, and other critical economic benefits," Sharma and Kirk said in the joint statement.

"We firmly believe that this session of the TPF has moved our relationship in the direction of realising those benefits, and look forward to continued cooperation to this end in the coming year," they said.

Later talking to a group of Indian journalist, Sharma said the bilateral trade despite the downturn has been healthy.

"At one stage it crossed $39 billion. This year we hope that the trade between US and India would do much better that what we did last year primarily because of the economic downturn, which did affect export and import for this country
as well as India," he noted.

Meanwhile, India hoped that the US will take "timely and appropriate" response on the hot burning issues like outsourcing ban and visa fee hike.

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"We have put it firmly in our discussions. I feel that the US has seriously registered India's view point as well concerns of the Indian IT industry. We do hope there will be timely and appropriate responses," Sharma said.

"We discussed in this meeting other issues which are of interest in particular some developments which have been of concern particular the border security check, and the visa fee increase," he added.

"We impressed to them to look at areas of enhancing the services sector particularly the IT and communication sector and take all those steps which help them further consolidate the partnership and not weaken it in any manner,"
Sharma said.

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At a time when the global economy is still reeling from the aftershocks of the economic crisis and coming out of the recession any inward looking step of protectionist measure would slow down the pace of recovery and deepen the recession.

It is better to avoid it, particularly since the United States is the world leader, is the largest economy and therefore there are expectations (from it) in that context, he said.

During his meetings, Sharma, said he also raised the issue of totalisation agreement and the need to accelerate the process and conclude it as soon as possible.

"There is need to complete the totalisation agreement. Almost $2 billion per annum social security payment is made by the Indian IT professionals," he said.

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Indian IT industry as such or the professionals in the last one and a half decade have multiple contributions globally in the IT enabling services and technologies building bridges across the continents, he noted.

The move on outsourcing and visa fee hike that place restrictions on IT professionals in his view has been regressive measures which have created an avoidable feeling of negativity among the services sector, he added.

With deepening and strengthening of strategic relationships between India and the US, there is no justification for keeping Indian companies in the entities list, said Sharma.

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"There is no justification of the continuation of Indian companies on the entity list. The issue of export controls particularly the need to removal of Indian entities after the understanding and agreements that the two countries have reached in strategic field in particular was raised earlier. It did figure, not in the trade policy form, but in the closed bilateral," Sharma said when asked bout the continuation of Indian companies in the entities list.

"We do hope that there will be action. They are aware of the significance of it and the need. The Indian viewpoint has been articulated and reaffirmed unambiguously. We hope that (contradiction between cooperation and entity list) will be corrected," Sharma added.

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"We have said that India's position is well known and appreciated because Washington also attaches equal significance to this strategic partnership with India," he said.

Sharma who attended a number of meetings here said during the meetings the two countries also discussed the idea of an Indo-US Treaty of Trade and Investment.

"We have between the two countries signed a framework co-operation agreement on trade and investment. We have suggested - both the sides discussed - that we should upgrade and start discussing seriously into a treaty of trade and
investment. We hope that in a structured format this would be taken forward in the coming months," he said.



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