Biden for liberalised trade regime, sets $500 bn trade target

US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday said New Delhi should take fresh initiatives to help remove trade barriers and inconsistencies in tax regime and this could propel annual bilateral trade to USD 500 billion.

Updated: Jul 24, 2013, 21:32 PM IST

Mumbai: US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday said New Delhi should take fresh initiatives to help remove trade barriers and inconsistencies in tax regime and this could propel annual bilateral trade to USD 500 billion.

He said the target was achievable if both countries made the "right choices".

Biden, however, welcomed relaxation in FDI norms in certain sectors including telecom, defence and insurance and hailed India as a "rising power".

While not setting a deadline for this massive rise in bilateral trade, which is currently driven by software services, Biden, the first US Vice President to visit India in three decades, noted that the two-way trade grew five-fold in the last 13 years to touch USD 100 billion.

"Our bilateral trade has increased five-fold to touch USD 100 billion in the past 13 years. We see tremendous opportunity and there is no reason if our countries make the right choices trade cannot grow five-fold or even more," he said delivering a lecture on 'US-India Partnership' at the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Welcoming the recent relaxation in the FDI regime by the government, Biden, however, called for more such measures, saying "we still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of issues, including caps on FDI, inconsistent tax system, barriers to market access, civil nuclear cooperation, bilateral investment treaty and policies protecting innovations."

"A lot more is needed to be done to remove trade barriers" because India has "risen exponentially" over the past decade primarily due to the "bold steps" it took in 1991 towards liberalisation.

The US Vice-President also said those economic reforms have helped boost the country's overall exports from USD 20 billion then to over USD 300 billion in FY13.

Appreciating New Delhi's role in South Asia, he said, "we welcome India's engagement in the region and its efforts to develop new trade and transportation links by land and by sea in the area."

Acknowledging contribution of Indian expatriates to America's growth story, he said, "the US has benefited due to Indian human capital".

On the Indo-US nuclear agreement signed in 2008, he said a power project of 6,000 mw could be set up in Gujarat with supply of US nuclear reactors.

On India's concern over its food security needs, he said, those would be addressed at the upcoming WTO meeting in December.

Talking about terrorism, Biden said both the countries have been victims and called for enhanced cooperation to tackle the menace.

Biden said the US had been sharing intelligence with India on terror in order to avoid 9/11 and 26/11-like situations.

Noting "unlimited potential" in Indo-US relationship, Biden said there was convergence in the strategic aims of both the countries.

"As you look down the road, in the next 2, 5, 10, 20 years, there are no obvious places where Indian interests and American interests diverge worldwide, regionally or domestically. There is great potential," he told reporters later after a business round-table.

India Inc was represented at the round-table, among others, by Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, Siraj Chaudhary of food producer and marketer Cargill, Pratyush Kumar of Boeing and Kaku Nakhate of Bank of America Merill Lynch.

Biden also supported India's claim to a permanent seat in a revamped United Nations Security Council.

While referring to US' ties with China, he described it as a "healthy mix of competition and cooperation.

"We are addressing the challenges in our economic relations with China. We view it in terms of a healthy mix of competition and cooperation. We just concluded agreement with China to reduce the use of pollutant called HFC that causes climate change."

Biden underscored the need for enhanced engagement between India, China and America. "The cooperation between the three big nations-India, China and the US- will help grow world economy," he added.

He said there were many similarities in the strategic objectives of the Indian and US governments and specifically cited the growing middle class, which he called as the "cornerstone" of America's economic future.

President Barack Obama will soon be laying out the vision of the US Government on the foundation of America's economic future, he said, adding "we think the cornerstone of what that foundation is, is the middle class, reinforcing the middle class for good jobs and good healthcare. The idea that they can have a dignified retirement..."

Biden, who is on a four-day visit to the country, said he found Indian leaders, both in the Government as well the Opposition, also echoing similar thoughts.

"We are not at odds as I can see on any strategic objective here, the question down from here is how we tactically implement what I think we all share...There is no difference between strategic autonomy and strategic cooperation in economic matters," he said.

"We've had a terrific discussion here and as we say in foreign policy circles, we've had full and frank discussion. We've had some interesting comments raised here that I'll take back to the President and to the administration as the things we can help resolve," he said.

Biden will be interacting with students at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, tomorrow, before leaving for Singapore.