India-US economic ties to grow stronger: Indian envoy

Washington (IANS) Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao has expressed her “firm view” that India-US economic relationship would only become stronger over time despite concerns of businesses on both sides.

“Just as US businesses have some concerns, Indian industry has also highlighted its concerns,” she said Friday at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Statesmen’s Forum – “US- India Economic Agenda in 2013”.

The Indian IT industry which employs over 100,000 in the US, and supports another 200,000 jobs including indirect ones, faces regulatory challenges in the US, Rao said citing a report by Nasscom, the premier organisation representing Indian software industry.

India “was also unable to even begin a dialogue with the US on a bilateral ‘Totalisation Agreement'” to eliminate dual Social Security taxation and facilitate return of Indian workers’ contributions once they go back to India, she said.

Hoping for an early meeting of the Ministerial Trade Policy Forum to address bilateral policy and regulatory concerns, Rao said “it is through regular dialogue that we can build common ground and address concerns in a well-reasoned, rational way.”

“Going forward, and in order to negotiate the global economic terrain better, India and the US perhaps also need to explore new trade and economic cooperation arrangements,” Rao said.

“This is where we need to move consciously and with momentum on the Bilateral Investment Treaty, as also train our sights on the exploration of the advantages, or otherwise, of any future bilateral economic partnership arrangements,” she said.

Noting that President Barack Obama had termed the India-US partnership as “a defining partnership of the 21st century,” Rao said: “We need to remain committed and engaged at all levels, continuously and without pause, overcoming any challenges, that may exist.”

“I am very optimistic about the future, and of the firm view that the economic relationship between our two democracies can only become stronger with the passage of time,” she said.

The Indian economy has grown at an average of 8 per cent per annum over the last five years and India hoped to achieve a growth rate of over 8 per cent per annum over the next five years, Rao said.

Recent months have witnessed a flurry of measures designed to further open the economy, with FDI reforms having taken place in single and multi-brand retail, civil aviation and power exchanges, she said.

“India’s receptivity and openness to foreign investment is only expected to go up,” she said referring to a slew of proposals outlined in this year’s budget which are “aimed at improving the investment climate, re-invigorating growth and promoting inclusive development.”

“This is a scenario in which there is immense potential for increasing US investments into India, considering that the US is the world’s leading investor, holding 14.8 percent of total global FDI stock in 2010,” Rao said.

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