US envoy pitches for FTA with India

Source: The Economic Times, Jan 12, 2018

India can seize the opportunity to provide “alternative investment hub” for the American companies which are downgrading their operations in China, US Ambassador Kenneth Juster said on Thursday while he pitched for bilateral FTA as the next big-ticket item.

Delivering his first policy speech since taking over as Ambassador to India Juster identified five pillars to take Indo-US partnership forward — Stronger defence ties; strategic economic relationship; energy & environment; inclusive development and cooperation in the region. The US envoy in particular emphasised on India’s role in Indo-Pacific region and opportunities in economic partnership. “India needs to take a strategic view of the economic relationship, so a roadmap for FTA could be laid.”

Pointing out that ‘America First’ and ‘Make in India’ are not incompatible, Juster said rather investing in each other’s markets will be mutually beneficial. It will increase economic interactions and volume of trade, lead to collaboration on emerging technologies and create jobs in both countries, he noted. “But let me go further and suggest that it is time to put a strategic lens on our economic relationship, just as we have done with our defence relationship.”

The speech was organised by Carnegie India – India chapter of noted US think tank.

Juster informed that a number of US companies have reported increasing difficulties in conducting business in the largest market in the region, China. “Accordingly, some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest at alternative markets. India can seize the strategic opportunity through trade and investment to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Bilateral trade has increased from approximately $ 20 billion in 2001 to $ 115 billion in 2016. The US envoy, however, expressed concerns about persistent trade deficits, including the one the US has with India. He said the US want to work with India to expeditiously resolve trade and investment disputes.

Referring to defence ties Juster said, “Perhaps in the next year we can announce some major agreements – fighter jets, advanced helicopters, unmanned ground vehicles and intelligence exchange.” He in fact suggested taking Indo-US military cooperation to an entirely new level: reciprocally posting liaison officers at each other’s operational/combat commands.”

When asked about Sino-US ties, Juster noted, “We are interested in a constructive relationship. But if they engage in predatory economic policy and other things, there would be reactions.”

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