Sun, Dec 4, 2016 | updated 01:18 AM IST

U.S. proud to be India's best economic partner, says Trade Representative Froman

Updated: Oct 20, 2016 23:32 IST

New Delhi [India], Oct. 20 (ANI): Stating that the United States (U.S.) is proud to be India's top trading partner, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman on Thursday said the U.S is the Number 1 destination for India's exports, purchasing more than 15 percent of all Indian goods and services exports, and India has a $30 billion trade surplus with the U.S. - the largest surplus it has with any country.

"In 2015, our total bilateral trade was over $109 billion. But, for economies of our size $17 trillion for the U.S. and $2 trillion for India, there remains much potential. The U.S. is proud to be India's best economic partner. We look forward to a future marked by our successes and in which we realise the full potential of our relationship," noted Ambassador Froman, while at The University of Chicago Center here.

"Over the last couple of years, we've seen some important reforms, such as the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST), the revision of the bankruptcy code, the establishment of dedicated commercial courts, and the release of India's first national Intellectual Property Rights Policy, whereas liberalising the food, civil aviation and business-to-consumer e-commerce sectors are important initial steps to open India's market," he said, adding that opening the defence, rail and broadcast sectors to foreign investment has also sent a positive signal.

Asserting that India has seen an improvement in its World Bank overall ease of doing business ranking, moving from 134th to 130th of 189 countries, Ambassador Froman said: "None of these reforms is easy, and the Government of India should be recognised for moving this agenda forward."

"As we prepare to pass the baton to the next administration, it might be helpful to focus on key elements of the agenda looking ahead," he observed.

Outlining the first agenda, he said, there needs to be continued work on improving the business environment if India is going to attract the kind of investment - domestic and foreign - to meet its aspirations.

"India has recently seen a positive trend in investment activity, but it should not be complacent. As an Italian economist once said, 'investors have the memories of elephants, the hearts of lambs and the legs of hares'."

"In choosing to invest, businesses are keenly sensitive to the business environment, whether the climate is commercially friendly or whether bureaucracy and corruption make doing business difficult. India's efforts to renegotiate and weaken existing agreements is concerning, particularly at a time when other emerging markets, such as China and Vietnam, are working to attract investment by negotiating higher-standard agreements," said Ambassador Froman.

Putting forth the second agenda, he said to be the home of globally competitive businesses and to ensure that Indian consumers fully access the benefits the global economy has to offer, India should continue down the path of opening its economy.

"India's relatively high tariffs and continued requests for exemptions from global trade rules - the need for which has already been questioned by the Ministry of Finance - only slows India's full participation into the global economy and the benefits that come with that for hundreds of millions of Indian citizens. Liberalising the retail, financial services and professional services sectors would help create an open, non-discriminatory and predictable regime that enhances the development of those markets and the quality of life of the Indian people," he added.

"Third, continuing the work of creating fairness and transparency in regulatory practices is central to building and maintaining confidence. Measures like uniform, predictable notice-and-comment procedures within the rulemaking process can contribute significantly to the overall business environment," said Ambassador Froman.

He said the fourth is the area of intellectual property rights.

"India is among the most innovative economies in the world, from the creation of the first smartphone for the blind to the development of roads made of recycled plastic. As India continues to innovate and develop its knowledge economy, robust and comprehensive protection of intellectual property will be key," he said.

Stating that the forthcoming reforms under the National IP policy will be fundamental to preserving and promoting the innovation that characterizes Indian industry, he added: "While we continue to work on issues where we have meaningful differences, we look forward to India developing laws and regulations that support the intent of the National IP Policy."

Finally, there is the basic fact that the digital economy has fundamentally altered the nature of trade itself, he noted.

"The digital marketplace is to play an increasingly central role in the overall flow of goods and services, and the only way to ensure the broadest possible diffusion of its benefits is to keep that marketplace open and free," said Ambassador Froman, adding that it goes without saying that the purpose in all of this is to improve the lives and livelihoods of both our peoples. (ANI)