Enthused by the success of US President Barack Obama's visit, India on Tuesday said it is time to "seriously consider" a trade-opening agreement with America, similar to the ones entered with the ASEAN and South Korea.
"Now after the successful visit of President Obama, we should seriously consider to engage in negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement which encompasses trade, investment and services," Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma said at a FICCI function.
Sharma made these comments in the presence of US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who however, sounded less enthusiastic about the idea of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
"We have a variety of different economic agreements that we are working on ...everything will have to be done in stages. Right now, we have many agreements already concluded. The business communities are focusing on so we take step at a time...", Locke told reporters on the sidelines of the function. He was part of the delegation which came with Obama.
India and the US already have an institutional mechanism to boost bilateral commerce through the Trade Trade Forum.
"What I have suggested is that we should use that as a foundation, build further upon," Sharma said.
But, these decisions require elaborate negotiations and the steps would be "calibrated... that, of course is not going to happen in this room today", he said, suggesting incremental steps to build on "strong foundation that we have". India-US had trade of USD 36.6 billion in 2009-10.
Seeking a substantial increase in commercial engagement with India, Obama asked India to remove trade and investment barriers in a host of areas including, telecom and retail.
India, as part of its 'Look East Policy' has already opened trade with the 10-nation bloc - Association of Southeast Nations and South Korea.
Though the industry has been favouring FTA with the US, it is now that Indian government has favoured the idea.
The FTA in the past was not considered feasible in the backdrop of the US being very aggressive in seeking market access for its agricultural products. India remained defensive about opening its agri markets to protect its farmers against easy imports.
In fact, this has also been India's sticky point, particularly with the US in the Doha negotiations for a multilateral trade agreement.