Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here, a top US business advocacy group has asked the Obama administration to re-launch bilateral investment treaty (BIT) negotiations with India as soon as possible and support its membership in the APEC grouping.
The US India Business Council (USIBC) – which represents about 350 American companies having footprint in India – said this in a joint letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and US Trade Representatives Mike Froman.
The latter dated May 25 was posted on USIBC blog this week.
“The US Government should consider formally re-launching our bilateral investment treaty (BIT) negotiations with the Government of India as soon as possible,” said the USIBC president Mukesh Aghi in his letter.
“While both governments took a break from the negotiations on account of revising the model BITs, it is important for us to come back to the negotiating table to develop a way-forward on concluding a high-quality BIT,” it said.
USIBC in its letter urged the US Government to support India’s entry in the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
“USIBC recognises that participation in APEC is a two-way street, and we similarly have been encouraging the Government of India to participate in APEC discussion groups of their choice as an observer to better understand the requirements of membership,” the letter said.
“While USIBC appreciates that the US Government may have other trading partners that it also would like to nominate for membership into APEC, we believe that the US Government could nominate India for APEC membership without slighting other trade partners. This is especially true give the size and importance of India’s economy,” USIBC said.
Recommending that the US Government develop a longer-term strategic trade goal with India — its eventual membership into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and or a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – USUBC recognised that much work remains on both sides before such a trade deal would be politically feasible.
“But now more than ever we need to set our sights on a long-term trade-focused goal, and take small steps towards that goal,” it said.
“As you will agree, international trade can be a difficult topic for domestic politics, as we are seeing in our own US elections. Nevertheless, USIBC believes that we are at a moment in time where the US Government ought to double down its efforts to secure its trade relationship with India,” the apex business advocacy group said.
India is a trading partner of utmost importance and US companies and citizens are better served by working with the Government of India as they continue to liberalise trade, it said.
Modi’s US visit next week, USIBC said, is an opportune time to cement the progress made on trade over the past several years.