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Pace of reforms in India appears to have slowed: US

A top Bush administration official feels that despite a healthy growth rate the pace of reforms in India appears to have "slowed".
By Sridhar Krishnaswami | PTI, Washington
UPDATED ON JUN 14, 2008 12:49 PM IST

Maintaining that "openness" is necessary for economies and people to prosper, a top Bush administration official feels that despite a healthy growth rate the pace of reforms in India appears to have "slowed".

"Since 1991, when then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh began sweeping reforms, India has enjoyed remarkable growth of about 8.5 per cent annually. That's more than double the growth rate from India's independence until then. The message is clear: the faster India opens, the faster India grows. However, we are concerned that the pace of reform appears to have slowed," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said.

"We believe improvements in market access, easing of investment restrictions, tariffs reductions, and the elimination of barriers in food trade should continue because it is good for India.

"India, like the US must decide if it will continue the openness that has brought so much prosperity, or risk sliding backward," he said at United States India Business Council (USIBC) 33rd Anniversary celebrations in Washington.

Gutierrez also announced the setting up of the Department of Commerce's India Business Center which will provide American companies business counselling and market intelligence that's critical to successfully doing business in India.

"The US and India are two great democracies. And we know that our systems require compromise for the greater good. Sometimes our leaders have to make tough choices that are in our long-term national interests," Gutierrez said.

Speaking about global food crisis, Gutirrez said, "many countries have unilaterally lowered food tariffs in response to the rising food crisis. Yet many of these countries balk at eliminating these same tariffs within the Doha negotiations. Here's where national interests could be linked to the global good. By making permanent agriculture reforms, we can boost farm trade and expand access to food."

Gutierrez also argued that nothing could immediately help the world's poor more than the completion of a meaningful and ambitious Doha Round.

"This is why we need India's help. India is a major leader, not just among developing nations, but across the whole world. We can't have a successful Doha Round without India's leadership. While success at Doha is critical, together we can also make progress in addressing impediments to economic growth including reducing shortages of food.

The Commerce Secretary said that it is the right time to help lower food prices by producing more and allowing markets to operate more effectively and efficiently.

"Opportunities exist in India to lower costs and increase choices in banking, finance and insurance, where barriers remain high. And the strengthening of pharmaceutical data and intellectual property protection will allow for the full development of the distinctive brand names and the innovative high technology companies that India wants to create and attract," he said.

"For our part, we believe now is time to take our partnership to a new level. One thing is for sure: when we work together, when we trade, when we lower barriers, and when we partner, it improves our economies in a world that has no shortage of competitors," Gutierrez said.

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