New Delhi: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday said that the US is conscious of India`s huge energy needs and both countries are working towards it while asking India to opening up of certain sectors for US companies to invest.
The Treasury Secretary was here leading delegations to participate in the 7th Indo-US Economic and Financial partnership meeting with Indian side, led by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He said that the US looked towards growth and economic security in both the countries and hailed the $5 trillion economy goal of the Narendra Modi government.
"I look forward to government`s $5 trillion goal and think they are going to hit that goal even faster. There are great economic opportunities for that," he said. The Secretary also said: "I want to grow bilateral foreign direct investment between our countries and look forward to opening up of certain markets to US companies to continue to invest here."
Mnuchin also held talks with Sitharaman in New Delhi on Friday, as part of a bigger tour to build support against Iran over its nuclear programme and its alleged ties to militant networks. He said US was working with its allies to make sure that there is significant supply of oil in the market to offset the sanctions on Iran, while adding the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia particularly has done a good job to ensure that.
"We are conscious of the fact that India has tremendous energy needs and we look forward to working with India," he said. Sitharaman explained to the US the need for land-based access to Afghanistan, particularly the need for them to have the Chabahar port (Iran) link to reach out to Afghanistan. She said this link is very necessary as India has a stake in building Afghanistan and also Pakistan continuously denies India land transit.
Mnuchin said the sanctions are not aimed at Iranian people. "These are directed towards something we see as significant security concerns... on issues around nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and exporting of terror." Earlier this week, the United States and six Gulf countries agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals allegedly linked to support for Iran`s militant network.
India, a long-time purchaser of Iranian oil, stopped purchases in May due to renewed US sanctions, and its refiners are now buying more crude from some suppliers like Mexico, and have signed new contracts with US firms.
Sanctions were imposed on Iran by President Donald Trump after he withdrew the US from Iran`s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers. Aside from throttling Iran`s oil exports, the sanctions also cut Iranian banks` ties to the financial world.
Mnuchin and the US delegation will travel to on Saturday for talks with Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das and other central bank officials, before meeting Indian business leaders later, RBI sources said.
On US-China trade agreement deal possibility, he said: "We continue to make progress on this and both sides are working hard to close the deal.
On the issues discussed between India and US during the meeting, he said they discussed the bond market, regulatory and economic issues, technical assistance, and combating terror financing. He said both sides briefly touched upon trade relationships.
On the slowdown in Indian economy, Mnuchin dismissed any fears. "When I look at the scale and potential of Indian economy, I don`t focus on short term numbers. I focus on structural changes and the great opportunities this economy has."