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Business News -> India, US to double trade to $60 bn by 2008 end.


India, US to double trade to $60 bn by 2008 end
By Arun Kumar, Washington, March 5, 2008 (IANS)

Kamal Nath, Indian Minister of Commerce and IndustryIndia and the US have set the goal of doubling their trade to about $60 billion by the end of 2008 while agreeing to begin exploratory talks on a possible bilateral investment treaty. The goal is set out in the Bush administration's 2008 Trade Policy Agenda and the 2007 Annual Trade Report to the US Congress released here Tuesday. Though trade has expanded rapidly, the current total amount of bilateral trade is not consistent with the size and potential of both the US and Indian economies, and both governments agree that trade and investment flows should be greater, the report said.

Noteworthy developments in 2007 included finalising arrangements for Indian mangoes to enter the US market for the first time, and agreement to initiate exploratory discussions in early 2008 on a possible bilateral investment treaty. Another development in 2007 in the bilateral US-India trade relationship was the creation of a Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG). The group's key purpose is to provide strategic recommendations and insights to the India Trade Policy Forum (TPF).

The discussions under the TPF, which is part of the overall economic dialogue between India and the US, cover bilateral trade and related issues and also address multilateral issues such as the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Development Round negotiations.

The membership of the PSAG includes trade experts and representatives of private sector organizations in the US and India with in-depth knowledge of international economic and trade policy.

The group will provide US Trade Representative (USTR) Susan C. Schwab and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath with analyses and recommendations for potential building blocks for bilateral economic relationship.

Commensurate with India's dynamic and growing economy, the bilateral agenda continued to expand with respect to the significant opportunities for bilateral trade that US and Indian companies are aggressively pursuing, as well as the challenges US investors continue to face as India gradually opens its markets.

However, India continues to limit market access in various sectors, including through high taxes and tariffs, non-transparent procedures, discriminatory treatment of imports, and non-tariff barriers, said the report.

Noting the two countries completed another year of active dialogue on trade policy in 2007, the report said India is working to improve its protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

"We continue to work with the government of India to address issues related to India's copyright law and patent law, protection of undisclosed pharmaceutical test or other data, as well as high levels of piracy, including book piracy, and counterfeiting," it said.

The USTR's efforts included the identification of new areas for cooperation, including with regard to India's tariff and tax regime, intellectual property rights, investment climate and regulatory hurdles.

As part of their trade dialogue, Schwab and Kamal Nath convened the fourth ministerial-level meeting of the TPF in April 2007. Through regular dialogue under the TPF, the US and India seek to remove impediments to bilateral trade by anticipating potential trade problems and jointly resolving concerns early.

The TPF serves as the umbrella for five focus groups: Agriculture, Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers, Services, Investment, and Innovation and Creativity (in particular intellectual property rights issues).

Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia and Indian Commerce Secretary Gopal Pillai oversaw ongoing focus group discussions throughout 2007 to address priority issues such as foreign direct investment caps, intellectual property rights protection, telecommunications policy and market access for a wide range of manufactured and agricultural products and services.

Schwab and Kamal Nath met on several other occasions in 2007. They participated in the US-India Economic Dialogue and US-India CEO Forum events held in New York City in September.

These events included discussions among US and Indian Cabinet-level and other senior government officials focused on trade and economic affairs.

Top government officials from both countries also met with CEOs from major US and Indian corporations with the goal of reviewing progress, and building momentum for our bilateral trade and investment relationship.

Schwab and Kamal Nath also met a number of times in the context of the Doha Development Round negotiations in an effort to find common ground in the pursuit of an ambitious outcome.

Multilaterally too, the US continues to lead efforts towards concluding an ambitious Doha Development Round, the report said.

Concluding an ambitious Doha Round is President George Bush's top trade negotiating priority and will generate economic growth through new trade flows in agriculture, industrial goods and services - helping to lift millions of people in developing counties out of poverty, it said.

"The administration realises that a window of opportunity exists to conclude the Doha Round this year and looks forward to working with our trading partners to achieve the ambitious and balanced outcome that will be necessary for a successful agreement," the report said.

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