'India's admission to TPP would be an economic coup'

Washington, August 2 (IANS) Noting that growing trade and investment continue to drive the US-India partnership forward, leading South Asia experts have said the two countries should not let trade issues complicate their relationship even as they welcomed India's admission to the trans-Pacific trade treaty as an "economic coup".

During his recent visit to India, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the key issues that stand out for policymakers on both sides of the US-India relationship, the lone Indian Congressman Ami Bera and South Asia expert Karl Inderfurth, noted in a commentary.

Biden had highlighted protection of intellectual property, limits on foreign direct investment, inconsistent tax dues and barriers to market access as the "tough problems" between the two countries.

"In working through these current disputes, both countries should not lose perspective of the rapid expansion and future trajectory of the full bilateral trade and investment relationship," Bera and Inderfurth, wrote in 'Roll Call' focusing on Congressional affairs.

"The goal should be to facilitate, not complicate, this key pillar of the deepening US-India partnership," wrote Democrat Bera and Inderfurth, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Overall US-India economic and trade relationship is steadily growing, they said noting business ties have already achieved a nearly fivefold increase in bilateral trade since 2000.

Noting that India is now the third-fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the US, and the US is among the top five of India's preferred FDI destinations, Bera and Inderfurth said the growing flow of capital from India has brought many benefits to the US economy.

Indian investment in the US recently touched $11 billion and has helped create 100,000 jobs. India-headquartered companies support 32,000 jobs, $1.6 billion in capital expenditures and $487 million in exports in 2010, according to the Department of Commerce.

Noting growing trade and investment continue to drive the US-India partnership forward, Bera and Inderfurth said, US and Indian policymakers need to keep their "eye on the prize" of unleashing the full potential of their economic relations.

Meanwhile, two other foreign policy experts said India's addition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, linking together major economies in North America, South America, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia, "would only enhance the TPP's transformative potential."

"A TPP including India would do more to buttress Washington's ties to New Delhi than any number of high-level junkets," Sean West and Jesse Kaplan wrote in the "Politico", an influential Washington newspaper focusing on politics, referring to Biden's recent India visit.

Kaplan, a former Babar Ali fellow at Lahore University of Management Sciences, and a student at Yale Law School and West, head of Eurasia Group's US practice, noted President Barack Obama has characterized a strong relationship with India as "indispensable."

"But the truth is that US-India relations have stagnated since the signing of the civil nuclear deal at the end of the George W. Bush administration," they wrote.

"Indian admission to the TPP would be an economic coup. Adding the world's largest democracy, and a BRIC, would represent a symbolic victory for a pact that promises to set global trading standards for decades to come," they wrote.

"Joining the TPP would be a smart move for India, too," Kaplan and West wrote, as "The TPP offers Delhi the opportunity to gain preferential access to thriving and fast-growing markets in Southeast Asia, in addition to Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the United States."

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

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