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U.S.'s Geithner Praises India's Overhauls

Source : Wall Street Journal
Oct 10, 2012

NEW DELHI—U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner expressed support Tuesday for India's recent steps to open its market to foreign investors, while cautioning that slowing global growth poses a threat to the U.S. and Indian economies.


Mr. Geithner said overhauls undertaken by India since mid-September, which include cutting diesel subsidies and allowing greater foreign participation in the retail, aviation and broadcast services, will help increase investment into India and lead to "more widespread gains in income."


India's federal cabinet is also pushing legislation to open the insurance and pension-management sectors.


The measures came as India's economic growth slowed to its weakest pace in nearly a decade. Investment has cooled, the fiscal and current account deficits have widened, inflation remains stubbornly high, and the rupee has dropped sharply.


The continuing economic troubles in Europe and the U.S. have also hurt Indian exports.


"We meet at an important time in the global economy, and during a period of significant economic reform in India and the United States. Both of our economies have been affected by Europe's crisis and by slower growth in Asia and around the world," he said.


Mr. Geithner's comments came after he and Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram attended the third annual meeting of the U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership earlier Tuesday.


"In the United States we have made a lot of progress repairing the damage caused by our financial crisis, and laying a foundation for stronger future growth," Mr. Geithner said.


But he noted that the U.S. still faces challenges such as job growth and fiscal reform. As the U.S. prepares for the presidential election in November, high unemployment and slow economic growth have led to a debate about outsourcing jobs, especially in the technology sector, to cheaper markets such as India.


The U.S. is the biggest market for India's outsourcing industry. The industry had $69 billion in sales last year, making it India's largest export sector.


Some Indian outsourcing companies have complained of delays or rejections in U.S. visa applications for their employees, making it more difficult for them to conduct business. They are countering the criticism by stepping up local hiring in the U.S.


Mr. Geithner acknowledged the benefits to the U.S. economy from Indian investments and talent, and said individuals and companies from India will play a greater role in the U.S. economy going forward.


"India is very important to the United States. We have a very promising and rapidly expanding economic and financial relationship," he said.


Mr. Geithner added that the Indian and U.S. delegations at the financial partnership meeting discussed how U.S. investors and businesses could contribute to India's investment and infrastructure needs, while also reviewing business opportunities in the two countries. They also spoke about ways to lower barriers to trade and investment.


The U.S. is India's third-largest trade partner, trailing only China and the United Arab Emirates, with total trade worth more than $59 billion.


The two countries Tuesday said they would strengthen cooperation on issues relating to illicit finance, including efforts to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes.


They also agreed to improve coordination on bilateral tax matters, including those related to offshore tax evasion, Mr. Geithner said.


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