India, US vow to work to boost trade ties before Barack Obama’s visit

Washington, Sep 22 (Calcutta Tube) India and the US have pledged to work together to boost trade ties while redoubling efforts to resolve several issues of concern, including visa and outsourcing issues, before President Barack Obama’s November visit.

A joint statement issued after a meeting of Indo-US Trade Policy Forum, co-chaired by Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, here Tuesday did not identify the concerns of either side.

But Sharma told reporters that India had articulated its concerns about the hike in US H1-B and L visa fees for professionals and the Ohio state ban on outsourcing of government contracts saying the ‘regressive measure had created an avoidable feeling of negativity in the service sector.’

He also told his interlocutors that 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.’

As the US ‘is the world leader and the largest economy and therefore there are expectations from them,’ Sharma said, and hoped for early resolution of differences.

‘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,’ he said.

Sharma, said he had also stressed the need to conclude the totalisation agreement as soon as possible, noting that Indian professionals contribute almost $2 billion contributed per annum towards social security.

However, the joint statement merely said the forum focused ‘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 our countries, as well as in the global economy.’

While ‘identifying areas for future constructive engagement between the two trading partners,’ they were ‘also able to exchange concerns on issues where we differ, recognizing 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 said Focus Group leads and other staff had been asked ‘to redouble their efforts, particularly in the coming weeks before President (Barack) 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.’

In a separate statement after the Sharma-Kirk meeting, the USTR said ‘the Obama Administration has worked to build on the United States’ strong relationship with India by significantly increasing our trade with, and investment in, the world’s largest democracy.’

The TPF ‘serves as a setting in which both countries bolster this burgeoning economic relationship by cooperating closely on areas of shared interest and working constructively to resolve areas of difference,’ it said without identifying the differences.

‘The dynamic growth of the Indian economy and its increasing importance to the United States as a strategic trade partner means that fostering solid connections between the United States and India opens valuable markets to American companies and supports job creation within the United States,’ the USTR said.

‘Through the Trade Policy Forum, USTR remains committed to trade as one way to support jobs in the United States, and looks forward to continuing to work with India in the future,’ it said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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