India and the US identified areas for collaboration, like the development of India's rural industries as well as agro-food processing, during the first meeting of the Private Sector Advisory Group of the US-India Trade Policy Forum held in New York on Monday.
"We looked at rural industry, agro food processing and small and medium enterprises because the Fortune 500 companies can take care of themselves but we need to see greater engagement of small and medium enterprises," Minister of Trade and Commerce Kamal Nath told journalists.
The PSAG was formed under the aegis of the US-India Trade Policy Forum.
In what Kamal Nath described as an 'important meeting' towards deepening bilateral trade and investment flows, the two sides finalised a number of areas that need to be looked at more closely to facilitate unfettered trade and investment.
Nath said the meeting identified "some areas of concerns and interest" from both sides impacting two-way trade, like "the issue of setting up titanium plants for the aircraft sector. They want to set up and we need to see whether we can open up hundred percent FDI in it. But we are considering it," he said.
The minister also said there was the issue of opening up of bank branches. "Many bank branches have been opened up by US banks in India, but there are no existing Indian bank branches in the US."
According to the minister, Indian banks have six branches in the US while the US has 52 branches in India.
He also said the Indian government is going to prepare a report on rural industries and agro-processing that will be ready in about six months.
"We seek greater engagement from the government facilitating small and medium enterprise in the US by encouraging delegations to India. At today's meetings it was mentioned that two such delegations would be sent to India in the next six months," Nath said.
"Both me and US Trade Representative Ambassador Susan C. Schwab asked the group to examine where we want to be over the next two to five years, and to provide recommendations on the incremental steps we can take to overcome obstacles and enable unfettered trade and investment, " Nath said.
The minister said the meeting also looked at issues like health tourism to India, as there are more than 50 to 60 million who do not have medical insurance in the US, and even for those who have it, it is very expensive to get surgical procedures done.
" We want to urge the insurance companies here to encourage people to have medical treatment in India, which will open up a huge opportunity for our country. We also looked at areas like increasing airport capacities and air traffic controllers in India. We are going to see how we can collaborate in these areas."
The second meeting of the PSAG will be held in New Delhi in January or February 2008.