Business Today

India now eyes broad economic pact with the US

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma says India and the US should seriously consider going in for a comprehensive economic co-operation agreement on lines of ASEAN.

Mail Today Bureau | November 10, 2010 | Updated 09:45 IST

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Tuesday said India and the US should seriously consider going in for a comprehensive economic co- operation agreement on the same lines as the agreements that India has signed with South Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) and is negotiating with Japan and the European Union (EU).

"After the successful visit of President Obama, we should seriously consider engaging in negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement which encompasses trade, investment and services," Sharma said.

He was addressing India Inc and US businessmen who formed part of Obama's delegation, along with US commerce secretary Gary Locke, the first Chinese- American to be part of a US President's Cabinet.

Sharma said the memorandum of understanding ( MoU), which has already been signed with the US to increase trade, should be used as a building block for the wider agreement.

Locke did not respond immediately to the proposal and said, " We have a variety of different economic agreements that we are working on. Everything will have to be done in stages. Right now, we have many agreements concluded that the business communities are focusing on.

So, we take one step at a time." Sharma said India and the US already have an institutional mechanism to boost bilateral commerce through the trade forum. " What I have suggested is that we should use that as a foundation to build upon further," he added.

"But these decisions require elaborate negotiations and the steps would be calibrated... that, of course is not going to happen in this room today," he explained. Locke said India needs to bring down its import tariffs and remove non- tariff barriers to allow more US goods to come into the country.

He also said that India has very complicated rules for foreign direct investment ( FDI), which were posing a hurdle for US companies. " These barriers to trade and investment will limit the long- term potential for business cooperation between the two countries and inhibit the partnership in innovation that the two nations earnestly look forward to," Locke observed.

"We want a level playing field for US companies so that there can be genuine competition," he added. He said US firms could come in with green technologies in the energy sector. There was a need to incentivise the private sector to commercialise green technologies, he added.

The US also has cutting- edge technology in healthcare equipment where early detection of diseases could save lives. The 300- million strong Indian middle- class could benefit from its use, he said.

Ron Somers, president of the US- India Business Council called for opening up higher education in India to US universities.

He said opening the retail sector to organised players would result in the development of cold chains in India, which would help the farm sector.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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