New Delhi, April 25: Outgoing US Ambassador Nancy Powell Friday said the ongoing Indian general elections will “set the stage for the next phase” in Indo-US bilateral ties as she pushed for both sides to achieve a trade partnership of $500 billion.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce, Powell said that she was in agreement with Indian Ambassador to US S.Jaishankar that with the Lok Sabha elections, which would throw up a new government next month, “it is now more important than ever to reaffirm” the commitment of both sides to “collaborate to enhance our mutual security and prosperity”.
She dismissed talk of India-US ties having fallen into the doldrums, saying that “a relationship that is strengthening and deepening may not draw splashy headlines, but it is not headlines that should define us. Instead, I look at concrete examples of what we have accomplished,” she said, according to a press statement.
Powell enumerated India-US cooperation on strategic and defence issues and the high level visits between them.
She said visiting Vice President Joe Biden during his address at the Mumbai Stock Exchange last year had urged for expanding the bilateral trade in goods and services from the current level of nearly $100 billion to $500 billion. “This will require both governments to make some tough, but vital, decisions,” she said.
Powell said to reach the $500 billion trade target, one major step would be the 2014 Indo-US Technology Summit and Expo to be held in November which would bring together industry, policy makers, researchers, higher education, and many others from both sides.
She touched on the fields of civil aviation, defense, infrastructure, energy, healthcare, IT services and agriculture as having potential to push bilateral trade.
In the field of civil aviation, she cited the “recent successes by US companies, including the $4.4 billion sale of Boeing aircraft to SpiceJet and Raytheon’s role in aviation navigation and traffic management systems”.
She said the joint venture between Tata Advanced Systems and United Technologies to manufacture aerospace components showcases the possibilities of Indo-US business ties. “And with India expected to become the third largest aviation market in the world by 2020, there is ample room to grow.”
In defence, Powell said the US is keen to help India in its efforts to modernize its military by co-producing and co-manufacturing the next generation of defence technology.
In infrastructure development, Powell said the US can contribute to enhance India’s railways as well as in sea and airports. In the energy sector, she said the US Department of Energy has approved 5.6 million tonnes export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India, likely to begin in 2017.
On the proposed India-US Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), Powell said that negotiators from both sides had met face-to-face to continue technical discussions in February. “We need to push forward these negotiations.”
For robust engagement, Powell said the US should be willing to “discuss issues that are important to India”.
“And while we are strongly opposed to forced local content requirements, we are sympathetic to the desire to develop a stronger manufacturing sector, and are ready to discuss how India might develop that capacity in a way that does not constrain trade.
“By the same token, we ask that India engage with the United States, at senior and working levels, to hav those difficult discussions on issues such as intellectual property rights and taxation,” she said.
She also proposed convening of “a Track 1.5 event during the first 100 days of the new Indian government to begin a conversation on how we can best accomplish this task”.