India, US to resume talks on investment treaty; hotline between top leaders soon

PTI | January 25, 2015

India, US to resume talks on investment treaty; hotline between top leaders soon

New Delhi: In a significant move, India and US on Sunday decided to resume talks on bilateral investment treaty during discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama, who lauded reforms being undertaken by the new government.

The two nations also agreed to resume talks on long pending ’Totalization Agreement’ that will benefit millions of Indians working in the US with regard to social security taxes.

As per estimates, Indian IT professionals in the US pay over $1 billion annually towards social taxes. The Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIT) aims at protecting investments in each other’s country. The two nations have been discussing the pact since 2008.

Addressing a joint press conference with Modi after the meeting, Obama said: "In the last few years, trade between our two countries increased by some 60 per cent, total record of $100 billion. We want to trade even more."

"...(we) welcome the reforms that the prime minister is pursuing to make it easier to do business here in India," Obama said, adding the trade and economic partnership must focus on improving the daily lives of "our people".

Modi said India and the US will "restart" discussions on the Social Security Agreement and resume talks on BIT.

"President Obama and I agree that a strong and growing economic relationship is vital for the success of our strategic partnership.

"Economic growth in our two countries is becoming stronger.Our business climate is improving.
"This gives me great optimism about our economic ties," he said.

He also said the two countries have established a number of effective bilateral mechanisms to identify opportunities and also help their businesses trade and invest more.

"We will also resume our dialogue on Bilateral Investment Treaty. We will also restart discussions on a Social Security Agreement that is so important for the hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals working in the United States," Modi said.

Obama further said Modi also described his efforts to empower more Indians with bank accounts and to ensure clean water and clean air for Indian people and "we want to be partners in these efforts".

The Modi-government has taken a slew of measures to attract foreign investments, including further liberalisation of FDI norms in the defence and insurance sectors.

Pacts on social security (Totalization Agreement) and investment, when concluded, is expected to further boost bilateral trade and investment between the countries.

On terrorism, the Prime Minister said it remains a principal global threat taking on a new character even as existing challenges persist.

"We agreed that we need a comprehensive global strategy and approach to combat with it. There should be no distinction between the terrorist groups. Every country must fulfil its commitments to eliminate terrorists safe havens and bring terrorists to justice," he said.

Touching on regional cooperation, Modi said the twocountries renewed their commitment to deepen cooperation to advance peace, stability, prosperity in Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region which is critical for the future of the two countries and the world.

Modi said they also discussed working on how to help in the transformation of Afghanistan, apparently after complete withdrawal of the US troops.

Obama said both the countries are going to be strong and reliable partners for people of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in a first, India and the US on Sunday agreed to set up a hotline between their top leaders — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.

"We will establish hotlines between myself and Barack and our National Security Advisors," Modi said in his opening statement during the two leaders’ joint interaction with the media.

The Ministry of External Affairs later said this is the first time that India and the US will have a hotline at the level of top leadership.

Modi said the effort was part of their exercise to give the critical partnership between two countries "a new thrust and sustained attention".

"We have decided to give this critical partnership a new thrust and sustained attention. For this, we have agreed that India and the United States must have regular Summits at greater frequency," he said.

source: PTI