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|December 10, 1997||
US firm on building ties with S Asia
United States President Bill Clinton is committed to enhancing America's commercial relationship with the South Asian region. The US is also seeking to build stronger political, strategic and cultural ties.
This was stated by US Secretary of Commerce William Daley while addressing a US investment summit titled 'The Emerging East' in Calcutta, organised by the US-India Business Council. Daley called upon the US and the Southeast Asian countries to enter the 21st century "as partners in a shared new prosperity."
The commerce secretary maintained that the US president and his administration "strongly encourage India to stay on the reform path, to continue to welcome foreign trade and investment, and to be a part of the extraordinary changes taking place in the global economy."
He warned that reforms could not come overnight but was a "long and arduous process." The US commerce secretary declared that he was present in Calcutta to emphasis his government's interest in the emerging east -- India and the nations of the eastern subcontinent like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
"We are here to generate real business-to-business activity and explore commercial opportunities of mutual benefit for the Southeast Asian countries," he said.
He pointed out that his delegation included firms from a wide array of industries, including the infrastructure sector, all of which were the focus of India's liberalisation. He added that representatives from the financial sectors were also present to provide their "expertise and capital to help stimulate Indian economic reform."
The US commerce secretary hoped that the South Asian nations would continue to view economic liberalisation -- unilateral, regional or multilateral -- as a key element in their respective economic strategies. He pointed out that the US business leaders would in the future learn more about the development priorities of the countries and the states of the emerging east adding, "They are eager to contribute their technology and expertise to the modernisation of this region."
Observing that the economic reform in this part of the world had "unleashed a torrent of energy in the marketplace," he said deregulation, privatisation and more open markets were creating opportunities for American firms and improving the living standards of the people.
Daley said the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was creating new crossborder dialogues and cooperation and that work was under way to facilitate and liberalise trade between the nations in the region.
Turning to information technology, the US commerce secretary said it was rapidly changing the conduct of the business around the world, with Internet becoming more an information resource rather than a digital library. He said the US government would invest $8 billion dollars this year on the Internet, a figure that was expected to increase by 4,000 per cent over the next five years. He suggested that the Internet should remain a tariff-free zone.
Daley said growth of electronic commerce has the potential to be an egalitarian force for the business and consumers alike. "It can help distribute services more easily between urban and rural areas -- bringing education, health care and information to underserved communities." He said the Internet also reduces the need for initial business capital thus opening the doors of entrepreneurship to more people.
The US commerce secretary appreciated the country's telecom commission for recognising the potentiality of the electronic commerce and said the "decision to eleminate a state monopoly on internet access and to waive licence fees for private internet service providers are important step in the right direction." He said his country was looking forward to working with India and other countries in the region on this crucial issue in the years to come.
Daley said he was having many bilateral meetings with the state government officials during his current trip. "Today, modernising infrastructure and creating new jobs depend less on decisions made in Delhi and more on the initiative coming out of the different state capitals," he pointed out. "State governments now have wider latitude in setting up their own economic priorities and pursuing their own development and modernisation goals."
Daley said he was particularly impressed at the success achieved by Orissa in attracting the maximum number of new business investment proposals during the last one year ending October last.
The US ambassador to the country, Richard Celeste, also addressed the two-day meet which is being attended by 175 US business representatives. Also present are about 400 delegates from India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
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