iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, September 30, 2013
The US is trying to foist a joint mechanism on India to address bilateral business concerns aggressively pushed by its companies and trade bodies in recent months.

The joint statement issued at the end of the Singh-Obama bilateral on Friday said the two countries will consider setting up a Joint Committee on Investment in Manufacturing.

The purpose, “to address all trade and investment policy issues of bilateral concern so as to remove obstacles and improve the business environment in both countries.”

Indian firms have few concerns about the US business environment, except the proposed immigration changes that could harm Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

But it’s not clear how a joint committee, if it does come through, will undo a legislation containing those immigration changes. Indian firms, therefore, probably don’t want it.

So, who does? A fact sheet the US issued to explain issues addressed in the joint statement, clearly states the joint committee was proposed by the US.

“To facilitate closer cooperation on strengthening the manufacturing sector in both countries and eliminating barriers that dampen investor confidence, the United States has proposed the creation of a Joint Committee on Investment in Manufacturing,” said the fact sheet.

This is a clear move to appease businesses and trade bodies that have been forcefully lobbying for India to be pressured to yield on some its trade and investment practices.

Their campaign was described by a lobbyist as “bullying”.

The US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Alliance for Fair Trade with India have been spearheading this campaign, on for months now.

They started by lobbying US lawmakers. Over 170 of them wrote to the administration before secretary John Kerry’s visit to India for the strategic dialogue.

Kerry raised their concerns at his meetings in India. Vice-president Joe Biden followed it up during his visit. And suddenly the relationship looked in trouble.

India tried to explain. It also changed and chopped some of those policies.

But the “bullying” continues, with the possibility of being institutionalized as a joint committee now.