Kamal Nath fetes top US officials

Nath played host to top US officials and corporate honchos at a dinner at his residence in New Delhi.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 12:21 IST

With business ties between their countries warming up, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath played host to top US officials and corporate honchos at a dinner at his residence in New Delhi onWednesday coinciding with President George W Bush's three-day visit to this country.

The guests included US National Economic Council Director Allan Hubbard, US Trade Representative Rob Portman, his deputy Karan Bhatia, and the 10 members from the US side on the CEOs Forum led by JP Morgan Chase's chairman William Harrison.

Indian invitees included Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia - the point person on bilateral economic issues with Hubbard - and the Indian representatives on the CEOs Forum, led by Tata Sons chief Ratan Tata.

"There was a unanimity in the informal discussions that both sides should change their mindsets and lift our trade and economic ties to a new level that befits the vast potential," Apollo Hospital Group chairman Prathap C Reddy said.

"On merchandise trade alone, it was decided that our annual bilateral engagement should be doubled over the next three years to over $40 billion," Reddy, who is also part of the CEOs Forum constituted in July 2005, said.

During a meeting with Kamal Nath earlier, Portman underlined the potential for pushing the trade volumes between the two countries and said USA's merchandise trade with China alone was valued at $300 billion annually, officials said.

In sharp contrast, America's trade with India - covering both goods and services - was in the region of a mere $30 billion last year.

A mention was also made that while the US is India's biggest trade partner with a 16.48 percent share, India accounted for only 1.06 per cent of America's total exports and imports.

The talks also reviewed the progress of the India-US Trade Policy Forum that had first met in November last year, as also on the current round of negotiations of the world Trade Organisation, agriculture, trade barriers and services.

A meeting was also held of the India-US Economic Dialogue, co-chaired by Hubbard and Ahluwalia, to review the progress made in the initiatives launched in 2001 to push trade and investment and collaborations in environment and finance.

The meeting was also attended by US Under Secretary of State Josette Shiner and Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran followed by a lunch hosted by Ahluwalia.

The CEOs had come ahead of Bush, who arrived in New Delhi Wednesday evening after making a stopover in Kabul.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 12:21 IST