US, India hold high level dialogue to deepen economic ties
New York, Oct 26 2006: The United States and India have held high level talks here to boost bilateral trade and investment on the prodding of their leaders keen to enhance their strategic partnership, officials said.
Ministers, senior government officials and business leaders met to flesh out initiatives from a blueprint drawn up by the US-India CEO’s Forum, set up a year ago by US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The closed door affair began with a meeting between US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and the White House’s National Economic Council chief Allan Hubbard, and India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Later US and Indian corporate chiefs met, including William Harrison, Chairman of the Board of JP Morgan Chase and US Chair of CEOs Forum, and his Indian counterpart Ratan Tata, head of the Tata empire.
They were accompanied by the chief executives of companies such as AES, Blackston Group, Cargill, Citigroup, Dow Chemicals, Honeywell, Lucent Technologies, Merck, Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd., PepsiCo and Boeing.
The ministers discussed a range of bilateral issues, including trade policy, information technology, agriculture and energy, officials from both sides said.
"The discussions went on very well," said a US official, who accompanied the government team.
Bush and Singh had asked the US-India CEOs Forum to develop a road map for increased partnership and cooperation at a business level as part of a new strategic relationship between the large democracies.
During Bush’s visit to India in March this year, the CEOs forum proposed six "priority" initiatives, including promotion of trade and industry and technology exchange in agriculture, biotechnology and nanotechnology.
The other initiatives are the creation of an infrastructure development fund, partnership in skills development, setting up a joint centre for industrial research in product design and development, and establishing a dispute resolution mechanism.
Considering the size and population of the two nations, bilateral trade is relatively small — less than 40 billion dollars in 2004, including for services.
This pales in comparison to US-China trade, valued at a whopping 235 billion dollars that year.
"And, yet, the US is India’s largest trading partner," according to a document of the CEOs forum.
A large portion of portfolio investment in India’s stock market of more than 10 billion dollars every year comes from the United States, the Indian embassy in Washington said.
US direct investments in India’s manufacturing and service sectors are also growing rapidly, it said.
But crucial to improvement of relations is a delayed landmark nuclear deal, in which Washington pledged to provide India with atomic technology for the first time in three decades, business leaders say.
The deal is expected to create billions of dollars of business spinoffs but its approval has been delayed by a wary US Senate.
The House of Representatives has cleared the deal, but the Senate put off voting on it ahead of November 7 midterm Congressional elections.
India conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 without signing up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), drawing sanctions from the United States and other Western nations.