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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

India agrees to negotiate Bilateral Investment Treaty with US

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times  Washington, July 13, 2013
First Published: 13:09 IST(13/7/2013) | Last Updated: 13:15 IST(13/7/2013)

India told the US on Friday it was ready to negotiate a Bilateral Investment Treaty, knocking down yet another irritant bedeviling business ties between the two countries.

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The issue of the treaty was raised by the US team at a meeting of the CEOs Forum of the two countries. And the Indian side promptly conveyed its willingness.

“We have signaled our acceptance and positive response,” commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said at a news conference. Dates and other details were being worked out.

This was a second major concession to the US in recent days following the shelving of the Preferential Market Access (PMA) provision for the telecom sector last week.

US companies, and at their behest their government, were bitterly opposed to the PMA as it mandated local sourcing of supplies against imports. It has been put on hold now.

India-US business relations have taken a few blows recently with US companies complaining of inadequate intellectual property rights protection, PMA and other issues.

India believes - and finance minister P Chidambaram told the US business community as much - US companies and the government complain too much, and unjustifiably.

India has also complained about the immigration reforms bill passed by the senate saying it unfairly targets Indian tech firms here - Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

“To the best of my understanding,” Chidambaram said on Thursday, “in no language, in no dictionary is immigration defined as temporary relocation of knowledge workers.”

At the same time India has shown it’s willing to address genuine grievances. Such as the PMA, which had the attention at the “highest level”, according to Sharma.

So it was put on hold.

And now India has told the US it’s willing to negotiate a Bilateral Investment Treaty, which New Delhi calls Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA).

India has signed BIPAs with 82 countries of which 72 are already in force. It put a freeze on these agreements in 2012 following a spate of suits from companies.

But the US kept pushing, at all levels.

The CSIS, a Washington DC think tank, proposed looking beyond the BIT - assuming it be a step towards a bigger economic cooperation - in December 2012.

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