U.S. upbeat on India as economic partner on eve of India- U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

By: Naveen Kapoor

Washington, Sept.20 (ANI): On the eve of the India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue the United States has said that trade and commerce will be “at the centre of the U.S. – India relationship “.

Speaking to ANI in Washington D.C., the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Mr. Arun M. Kumar, said that the U.S. is looking forward to taking its economic relations with India to a new level.

Mr. Kumar added, “Over the next two days there will be a “number of commercial outreach events in Washington and at least 12 private sector events which would include a CEO’s forum.” The U.S. thinking is that commercial ties with India should form the “centre piece” of its growing relationship with India with commercial power fueling stronger strategic relationship between the two countries.

The senior U.S. official said, “President Obama and Prime Minister Modi had decided to place trade, commerce and economic growth as the centre of the relationship.”

The India – U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S and CD) is beginning in Washington from September 21 to 22. It would be co chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from the Indian side and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker from the U.S. side.

Ease of doing business in India will be part of the discussion areas. Mr. Arun Kumar said there are a “number of areas where the U.S. can collaborate with India especially in infrastructure and information highways which would link up Indian villages and is in line with PM Modi’s Economic Vision.”

High-level sources said that the Indian tax regime would also be a topic of discussion as that directly impacts upon ease of doing business. The Vodaphone retrospective tax issue continues to concern American companies and this is an issue on which a clarification is likely to be sought from the Indian side.

U.S. private industry sources said that of all the bottlenecks in India it is taxation which is of primary concern as “there are many areas of grey and American corporates are uneasy in working in that environment,” said one source.

The mood in Washington on the eve of this important Economic Dialogue is very positive. Observers say while it would be “early days” to bring in the China example the fact of the matter is that “Prime Minister Modi is committed to making India an attractive investor destination and American companies should be the first in the door to reap benefits.” Overtly, there is no mention of China in this dialogue but some things are best conveyed unsaid, said a well-informed U.S. source.

As an indicator of the importance the U.S. is extending to this dialogue is the fact that Vice President Joe Biden may make an appearance. This is unprecedented and sends a very strong political message that the U.S. is serious about “talking shop” with India and taking commercial ties to a new level, said a high level U.S. source, who is involved in the U.S. economic strategy for the Asian region. (ANI)

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