FICCI pushes for FTA with US sans agriculture

The Hindu | 29 June 2009

FICCI pushes for FTA with US sans agriculture

Washington (IANS): The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is pushing for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States without agriculture to bypass differences over farm subsidies.

"If there is a political will on both sides this is a doable proposition," FICCI president Harsh Pati Singhania said noting that it would take time to bridge differences on such contentious issue posing a hurdle in the way of a comprehensive detailed agreement.

"So I think it’s better that we focus on trying to carve out or pick out some areas," he said expressing the hope that when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits India next month, there should be a "tangible outcome to take Indo- US relations to a higher trajectory and to achieve some results which are definitive."

Briefing newspersons on the visit of a FICCI delegation along with a delegation of parliamentarians, Singhania said the business, lawmakers and officials were working in concert to "create the atmospherics for something tangible to come out of the Clinton visit."

There were instances of FTAs excluding certain subjects signed by US, he said pointing to North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Mexico, US and Canada without agriculture because Canada objected to including agricultue. Similarly the FTA with Australia sugar left out sugar.

In the US "there seemed to be an immediate willingness to go look at hurdles which may be holding back a tectonic jump in our relationship in the knowledge driven innovative industries," Singhania said suggesting certain kind of collaborations that have been accepted by both government should be tied up.

He also suggested collaboration in the areas of defence and civil aviation as also opening up of the civil nuclear sector to middle level or tier 2 and 3 suppliers in the private sector following the signing of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Joint venture with Indian companies will open the big space and raise US exports to India very significantly, Singhania said asking US to remove 4 Indian companies from the "entities list" and lift restrictions on export of dual use technology.

"In the spirit of the new India-US relationship we must also consider the bigger picture of moving from a technology denial regime to a technology cooperation regime based on the G-8 model," he said suggesting that the signing of the nuclear deal had made India equivalent to US strategic partnerships with G-8 countries.

source: The Hindu