Biden to press India on more economic reforms

Washington, July 19 (IANS) Pressing India for more economic reforms, US Vice President Joe Biden will raise a host of issues ranging from further opening up the retail sector to a stable tax regime during his first India trip next week.

While the US welcomed India's raising of foreign direct investment limits in certain sectors last week, "we look forward to continuing to work together to further increase American investment", a senior administration official said Friday.

Biden's trip "would also afford a chance to point that international firms can play a very constructive role in developing India's retail sector to meet the needs of India's growing population in a way that benefit Indian farmers and consumers as well as American business," he said in a White House teleconference call.

"You can expect that this will be a very important agenda," the official said ahead of Biden's four day trip which starts Monday.

The visit would be the first by a US vice president in 30 years since then incumbent George H.W. Bush came in the eighties.

"We will raise the concerns that we have just as we will advise the Indian government to raise the concerns that they have and its views on how we can facilitate economic opportunity for Indian companies in the US."

Among the key issues the official listed were "India's need to provide automatic protection of intellectual property and the importance of a stable predictable tax regime."

Biden, he said, "will describe how reforms in these areas can help strengthen trade and investment ties and will help further India's incredible growth story".

The vice president's trip, "will be a chance to build upon all of the commercial and economic dialogue that we have going with India right now", the official said, referring to the visits of three Indian ministers here last week and US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to India last month for the India-US strategic dialogue.

Asked about the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, which has been a limbo over India's nuclear liability laws, the official said, "both of us regard this as a signature achievement and are keen to maximise it".

"We also recognise there are issues associated with it and we need to be engaged on it," he said.

As Biden himself told a Washington think tank Thursday, "we still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of issues".

"There is a lot of work to do," he said listing civil nuclear cooperation, bilateral investment treaty and policies promoting innovation.

"There's a lot of work to do. But we believe doing -- going with an open mind and listening, as well as making our case, we believe it can be done."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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