India hopes to double its bilateral trade with the United States by 2009 as it continues to engage its largest trading partner in a bid to remove divergences on issues of trade and commerce.
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath expressed this hope at a press conference in Washington on Thursday after a series of meetings with senior US officials as also incoming World Bank president Robert Zoellick.
Nath, who was here to attend the US-India Business Council's 32nd anniversary Global India summit, had a brief exchange with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice besides bilateral meetings with Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Treasury Secretary Henry M Paulson Jr, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.
India and the USA, he said, enjoy healthy relations with a total trade volume of almost 30 billion dollars in the last fiscal. US currently accounts for 16.8 per cent of Indian exports and 6.3 per cent of its imports. India now would like to add more content to a larger trade basket.
Nath reiterated India's commitment to take the Doha round of World Trade talks forward as New Delhi wants to see a strong multilateral system in place as a powerful instrument of delivering international prosperity.
"We, like the United States, do not want to see the multilateral system fractured by the failure of the Doha talks, and our inability to engage with each other candidly and fruitfully," he said, seeking mutual respect for each other's sensitivities.
Denying that the failure of the Group of Four trade ministers to reach agreement at Potsdam had caused tension between the two, Nath said it was not a question of only India, Brazil or the European Union agreeing. "You have to take on board a large number of countries."
Discussions would now take place at the ambassadorial level with officials trying to converge on the text, he said hoping the momentum will continue.
With no industrial tariffs, India can be flexible, but such flexibilities are contingent upon other things such as Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA), Nath said seeking effective cuts in trade distortions.
Distortions are caused by subsidies, Nath said offering to take 10 per cent more cut than what the developed countries were willing to take. But US in the name of a little headroom wanted them to take double the cuts.
India, he said, is seeking a more balanced, a more just and a more development-oriented outcome in the WTO; an outcome that does not perpetuate the structural flaws in global trade, but redresses them. The future of international trade lies not in tariff-reduction (which is going to happen in any case) but in meaningful reform of the rules, Nath said.
India is seeking a balanced package on services trade as well as one cannot afford to restrict to merchandise trade in today's globalised world. New Delhi has thus unilaterally taken steps beyond its Uruguay Round commitments to open its own services markets.
Asked about India-US civil nuclear deal, the minister said, "We would like to see it go through." Both sides were committed to it, Nath said recalling Rice's comments at the USIBC summit.