US business seeks free high-tech trade with India

November 2nd, 2010 - 11:28 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 2 (IANS) Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s trip, a major US trade association representing 300 top US companies doing business with India has proposed a five-point agenda for advancing India-US economic partnership, including educational collaboration and a free trade agreement.

Entitled “Partners in Prosperity - Business Leading the Way”, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) agenda seeks removal of barriers to high technology trade; recommends interventions to ‘grow’ agriculture; and seeks infrastructure collaborations, including the mobilisation of new capital markets to fund India’s enormous urbanisation requirements.

It also calls for educational collaboration, including vocational training, research, and K-12 (Kindergarten to Class 12) schooling; and, proposes a first-of-its kind Free Trade Agreement to unleash the synergies that American and Indian industry so uniquely share - innovation and knowledge.

USIBC prefaces this bold agenda by making the case that it is the commercial relationship between the US and India that has laid the foundation and made the environment ripe for what must ultimately become strategic partnership between the two countries, the trade advocacy group said.

“It is high time we begin treating one another as genuine partners - both in terms of our strategic relationship - in defence, security, and in space, as well as in our very special knowledge partnership,” said USIBC president Ron Somers.

“Business is leading the way as it should, as it always has done in pioneering the contours and pushing the envelope of this unique partnership,” he said.

“Our aim here is to set an agenda that is forward thinking, that looks well into the coming decade. If we set our sights high, there is no doubt that, as partners, the United States and India can shape the economic destiny of the 21st Century.”

USIBC is mounting the largest ever executive mission of US business leaders to attend a Nov 6 business summit in Mumbai, organised with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), featuring a keynote address by Obama.

More than 200 business leaders, including those from the Fortune 200 to small and medium enterprises, are making the trip to India for the Obama visit. During his India visit, Obama will meet top US business leaders, including India-born Pepsico chairperson Indra Nooyi, to “discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in India,” according to the White House.

The business delegation meeting Obama will include Honeywell International Inc’s David Cote, who co-chairs the India-US CEO Forum with Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, Boeing Co’s Jim McNerney, General Electric Co’s Jeffrey Immelt and Mcgraw Hill Companies’ Terry McGraw, who is also USIBC chairman.

Louis ChĂȘnevert, CEO of aerospace major United Technologies Corporation and Ellen Kullman, chief executive of chemicals giant DuPont may also be joining.

Obama has vowed to double US exports in five years. India, Asia’s third-biggest economy, offers a rapidly growing market for US companies.

Trade between the US and India more than doubled to $37 billion in 2009 compared with 2003, according to US Commerce Department data. In the first eight months of 2010, total trade topped $32 billion, Commerce figures show.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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