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India needs to open up its economy: Locke

business Updated: Feb 04, 2011 12:17 IST

India needs to open up its economy through steps such as reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers, lifting restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) and improving the protection of intellectual property, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Thursday.

Locke leaves for India on Friday for a week-long trade mission at the head of a delegation comprising some 24 US companies from the fields of civil nuclear, hi-tech, security, civil aviation, information, communication and technology.

Noting that India faces huge developmental challenges -- ranging from upgrading infrastructure to medical devices, to energy and upliftment of the quality and standard of life of its people -- Locke said this is where American companies can facilitate the Indian government's objectives.

"But to take advantage of these opportunities, India itself would have to take further steps to open up its economy, including reducing a variety of tariff and non-tariff barriers, lifting restrictions on foreign direct investment and improving the protection of intellectual property," Locke said at a journalist round table on the eve of his departure.

Observing that concerns that the US and other international businesses have with respect to India's business environment need to be resolved, he noted, however, there was no quick procedure.

"But we aim to start that process through the trade mission next week," he said, adding that the United States has not given up on market access issues with India.

"We believe it is in the economic interest of the Indian people to open up this economy. People in both countries would benefit from that," Locke observed, adding that the Obama Administration is pushing for mutually beneficial trade.

"No doubt that India is moving in the right direction and will be able to work through a lot of these issues. When you look at the last 20 years, India has opened its economy and come further and faster than anyone ever could have predicted," he said.

Locke argued that expanding US exports to India represent the kind of mutually beneficial trade that creates jobs in both India and the US and will help improve the quality of life for the people of India.

"This is really a win win opportunity for the people and businesses of both the countries," Locke said.

The recent export control announcement that removed Indian companies like ISRO and DRDO from the list of entities denied access to sensitive technologies has opened the door for increased high technology trade and cooperation between India and the United States, he said.

"These steps lead to even greater opportunities for the trade of high-technology and space trade," he added.

"The purpose of our trade mission starting tomorrow is to take advantage of that opened door," said Locke, who is the first Cabinet Secretary to return to India since US President Barack Obama made his historic visit to the country last November.

During his India trip, Locke will meet several Indian Cabinet Ministers, besides top officials of the Department of Atomic Energy, Nuclear Power Corporation of India and ISRO.

The delegation, which also includes senior officials from the Export-Import Bank (EX-IM) and the Trade Development Agency (TDA), will make stops in New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.

On the last day of his India trip on February 11, Locke will visit dabbawallahs (tiffin caterers) in Mumbai to learn about the unique logistics operations involved in delivering home-cooked food to thousands of people daily.

This lunch delivery service has been cited as a model of entrepreneurship and supply chain management at the grassroot level.

"It is an exciting process by which they distribute the food. So we want to get a good flavor of the life and the culture of India," Locke said in response to a question on why he wants to visit the dabbawallahs.