Business Standard (India)
By Lalit K Jha, PTII
June 29, 2009
www.business-standard.com

Noting that achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement between India and the US would take time because of sharp differences on several issues involved, industry body FICCI has called for an Indo-US FTA excluding the contentious issues like agriculture.

"Instead of waiting for long, it is in the interest of both the countries to move ahead with an FTA excluding agriculture," FICCI President Harsh Pati Singhania said, winding up his week-long US trip during which he met key officials in the US Administration, Congressmen and business leaders.

In fact, there are instances wherein the US has entered into free trade agreement with countries excluding some of the contentious issues like agriculture. Singhania said a bi-partisan delegation of members of Parliament, who were here in the US last week, meeting US lawmakers and government officials also agreed with the FICCI viewpoint to push for a Indo-US FTA excluding agriculture.

He was joined by FICCI general secretary Amit Mitra as both held a series of meetings in Washington in an effort to set the tone of Indo-US business relationship for the two new governments for the next five years.

"If we have to look at FTA (between India and the US), it has to be without agriculture, because of the subsidy structure,” Mitra said as Singhania observed that otherwise it would take a long time to arrive at an agreement on all the points.

"Therefore, we should look for something, which can get more tangible results in shorter period. That is why we are talking about FTA excluding agriculture," Singhania said, observing that agriculture negotiations would take a long time, because of the political difficulties in both the countries. “We found resonance,” Mitra said.

Referring to the series of meetings he had with US officials, Congressmen and business leaders, Singhania said: “The impression we got is that if there is a political will, this is doable.” There is a larger objective to be served by having such an agreement.

Singhania said it is time that India and the US move beyond the obvious areas of cooperation into new areas. Observing that civil-nuclear, energy and defence are the obvious areas of cooperation between the two nations, he strongly felt the need of India and the US identifying new areas of cooperation like nano-technology, agro-biotech and innovation.

"I think there was positive indication on the US side," Singhania said, adding that he also impressed upon the US officials there something tangible must come out during the next month’s India visit of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The FICCI delegation received a general feeling from the US that certain kind of collaboration, which has been accepted by both governments, should be heightened. For instance there seems to be immediate willingness to look at hurdles, which may be holding back a major jump in knowledge driven areas.

During their deliberation, FICCI delegation also raised the issue of dual use technology and the Indian entities which are still under US sanctions.

"If this can be done, FICCI estimates that the export from the US to India can rise very significantly, because a lot of export gets restricted because of this dual use technology restrictions," Singhania said.

Post-nuke deal, the FICCI delegation emphasised India should be given equivalent status as those given by the US to G-8 countries.Noting that achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement between India and the US would take time because of sharp differences on several issues involved, industry body FICCI has called for an Indo-US FTA excluding the contentious issues like agriculture.

"Instead of waiting for long, it is in the interest of both the countries to move ahead with an FTA excluding agriculture," FICCI President Harsh Pati Singhania said, winding up his week-long US trip during which he met key officials in the US Administration, Congressmen and business leaders.

In fact, there are instances wherein the US has entered into free trade agreement with countries excluding some of the contentious issues like agriculture. Singhania said a bi-partisan delegation of members of Parliament, who were here in the US last week, meeting US lawmakers and government officials also agreed with the FICCI viewpoint to push for a Indo-US FTA excluding agriculture.

He was joined by FICCI general secretary Amit Mitra as both held a series of meetings in Washington in an effort to set the tone of Indo-US business relationship for the two new governments for the next five years.

"If we have to look at FTA (between India and the US), it has to be without agriculture, because of the subsidy structure,” Mitra said as Singhania observed that otherwise it would take a long time to arrive at an agreement on all the points.

"Therefore, we should look for something, which can get more tangible results in shorter period. That is why we are talking about FTA excluding agriculture," Singhania said, observing that agriculture negotiations would take a long time, because of the political difficulties in both the countries. “We found resonance,” Mitra said.

Referring to the series of meetings he had with US officials, Congressmen and business leaders, Singhania said: “The impression we got is that if there is a political will, this is doable.” There is a larger objective to be served by having such an agreement.

Singhania said it is time that India and the US move beyond the obvious areas of cooperation into new areas. Observing that civil-nuclear, energy and defence are the obvious areas of cooperation between the two nations, he strongly felt the need of India and the US identifying new areas of cooperation like nano-technology, agro-biotech and innovation.

"I think there was positive indication on the US side," Singhania said, adding that he also impressed upon the US officials there something tangible must come out during the next month’s India visit of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The FICCI delegation received a general feeling from the US that certain kind of collaboration, which has been accepted by both governments, should be heightened. For instance there seems to be immediate willingness to look at hurdles, which may be holding back a major jump in knowledge driven areas.

During their deliberation, FICCI delegation also raised the issue of dual use technology and the Indian entities which are still under US sanctions.

"If this can be done, FICCI estimates that the export from the US to India can rise very significantly, because a lot of export gets restricted because of this dual use technology restrictions," Singhania said.

Post-nuke deal, the FICCI delegation emphasised India should be given equivalent status as those given by the US to G-8 countries.

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