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Right time to improve trade ties with India: US official

July 25, 2014 09:53 IST

Describing India as a huge market for US businesses, a top Obama Administration official has said it could be the right time to improve bilateral trade ties as there is a new government in charge in New Delhi.

"India is a huge country with an enormous market that significantly underperforms in the context of its commercial relationship with the US," Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service International Trade Administration (ITA) told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

"With a new government in charge, the timing may be right to materially improve our bilateral trade relationship, which could translate into greater opportunities for US businesses.

Despite all of the economic and commercial challenges we face in India, it is an important global partner and key player in the region," he said.

He said from 2000-2013, US-India trade in goods and services has grown from $19 billion to $97 billion a year.

"Having recently returned from India where I met senior Government of India officials, chambers of commerce, and leaders of US and Indian businesses, I would agree that the potential is indeed vast," he said.

Kumar said the US-India Strategic Dialogue meeting, scheduled for July 31 in which Secretary of State John Kerry will participate, will build on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda to return India to robust and sustainable growth.

The commercial importance of India is growing: it is the world's third largest economy measured by GDP in terms of purchasing power parity, the 10th largest in nominal GDP, and the eighth largest consumer economy, he said.

"It has an urban middle class forecasted to reach 400 million people and a significant 'affluent class', both of which translate into high-potential markets for US exporters."

"India is currently a relatively small market for the US, in terms of total US exports, highlighting the potential opportunity for continued growth," he said.

Manufactured goods such as diamonds, gold, and jewelry; aircraft and aircraft parts; and machinery are among the leading products that the US exports to India, Kumar said.

A priority for ITA is to expand opportunities for US exporters in India. Another priority is to increase direct investment in the US from India, he noted.

"These efforts are part of a broader Administration effort to increase prosperity in both countries and complement bilateral efforts to enhance regional and global security.

This ultimately strengthens democracy and civil society around the world," Kumar said.

ITA currently has seven posts in India -- New Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai-- which gives it the largest footprint of any ITA operation outside the US.

Lalit K Jha
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