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Indo-US dialogue to focus on economic and trade relations

world Updated: Jun 20, 2013 23:31 IST
Yashwant Raj

The US-India strategic dialogue starting Monday may turn into the most contentious yet with Washington expected to lean on New Delhi on key economic and trade issues.

India will push back explaining once again its position on contentious issues — preferential market access, IPR laws and multi-brand retail. It will also be raising concerns about the US immigration reforms seemingly targeting Indian technology firms operating in the US.

US Secretary of state John Kerry reaches New Delhi on June 23 for two days of talks and public events, in what will be his first visit after taking over from Hillary Clinton in April.

Kerry will put forward concerns raised by US lawmakers and businesses about restrictive trade practices. "There has been a lot of concern on the part of the American business community about what they see is growing obstacles to trade and investment," said assistant secretary of state Robert Blake at a Washington DC think tank event previewing US priorities for the dialogue on Wednesday.

US lawmakers and business bodies have demanded the government to build pressure on India to address the issues. "The fact that 170 members of the House have signed a letter, and a large number of senators as well," Blake said, adding, "India is trying to lobby them on comprehensive immigration reform, it's a bit tough for them to do that when there is this overhang of kind of negative viewpoint about trade."

Economic and trade issues are central to India-US ties with bilateral trade touching $100 billion in 2012, and growing at 6% in the first four months of 2013.

In a video message on the visit, Kerry said, "Over the last decade, our bilateral trade has, believe it or not, grown five-fold." He didn't mention the differences pointed by officials.

US goal at the dialogue, Blake said, will be to "reinvigorate" talks on Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Trade Policy Forum. BIT is held up because of an internal review by India, but the trade forum went into disuse because of the unavailability of the US Trade Representative, who co-chairs it.