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March 18, 2000
'Clinton's visit will boost trade; sanctions may be lifted'
US President Bill Clinton's visit to India beginning tomorrow would give an ''extraordinary upward lift'' to Washington's trade and investment interests in New Delhi, US ambassador Richard F Celeste said today.
Celeste also hinted at lifting of the remaining sanctions against New Delhi with the harmonisation of bilateral relations.
He emphasised that the President, during his meetings with government officials and industry leaders, would address wide-ranging issues concerning trade and economic interests of the two countries.
The two countries have in the recent past shown great concern to each other, he said adding that US has keen interest in areas like information technology, biotechnology, agro industry, services and consumer industries.
At a press meet hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in India or AMCHAM, Celeste said whether bilateral trade relationship would be institutionalised would depend upon the talks between Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He said, ''Some sanctions are there and I hope that they would be rolled back as we move towards harmonising the situation.''
Asked about the impact of the sanctions on India, Celeste agreed with the assessment of finance minister Yashwant Sinha that the impact would be moderate if not minimal.
About differences between the two countries over WTO agreement on labour standards, he said, ''There was nothing between two friends who can't be sorted out.''
Whether issues like non-trade barriers was also on the agenda of Clinton's visit, Celeste said since the talks would be very wide ranging, it many also figure.
He felt that the Indian government's decision to liberalise foreign direct investment or FDI norms, would be beneficial for the working class both in India and the United States.
The US accounted for 48 per cent share of the total FDI approved by India reflecting its great interest in investing in India, Celeste pointed out.
He said India has realised real benefits from opening up its markets for global investors and more and more investment would provide greater opportunity to Indians.
India is capable of substantial agriculture export and Washington and New Delhi were in favour of opening up of the agriculture market.
AMCHAM president Sanjay Bhatnagar announced a five-point FDI initiative to promote FDI flow into the country which include, partnering with the Indian government to provide strategic and marketing expertise to build the 'India Inc' brand overseas. Bhatnagar, who represents Enron in India, also promised that it would lobby with the US for rollback of sanctions.
Establishment of an exchange programme to facilitate visits of senior US-based leadership of AMCHAM companies to India to meet with key stakeholders in the government and industry, as well as media, to communicate the interest in US businesses in India and vice versa was another highlight of the initiative.
Besides, the AMCHAM would also work for setting up a special purpose consultation groups to provide Indian government regular feedback on general and sector-specific issues, including those related to policy, regulation and investor concerns.
Meanwhile, the US expressed concern over the peace scenario in the sub-continent and urged India and Pakistan to initiate a dialogue on various issues to ease tension in the region.
Celeste shared President Bill Clinton's concern about peace in the sub-continent and urged New Delhi and Islamabad to hold talks based on the Lahore declaration. He hoped that India and Pakistan would take steps for initiation of peace talks as per the Lahore declaration, reached between the two countries last year.
He said leaders of the two neighbouring countries should take active steps in this direction. The two countries agreed for regular interactions during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan last year and signed the Lahore declaration in this regard. Peace talks between the two countries, however, derailed after the Kargil misadventure by Pakistan.
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