The Hill: Lawmakers urge ‘ambitious new goals’ for trade with India

September 21, 2015

By Vicki Needham

Key members of the House and Senate are urging the Obama administration to address trade barriers with India.

Four lawmakers — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) — said progress needs to be made during the first-ever U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD).

“As strong supporters of the U.S.-India relationship, we urge you to take full advantage of the S&CD to address significant and long-standing bilateral concerns, encourage India to follow through on its reform agenda and set ambitious new goals to improve bilateral trade and investment,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
In the letter, the lawmakers highlighted several trade-related concerns, including inadequate intellectual property rights protection, forced product localization rules, agricultural barriers not based on science and high tariffs on U.S. exporters.

They wrote that the forum must “produce concrete results,” and ensure that “United States and Indian businesses — small, medium and large — are in a position to capitalize on abundant opportunities that exist in both of our countries.”

The summit starts on Monday night with Kerry, Pritzker, Vice President Biden and Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a U.S.-India Business Council dinner.

Pritzker said Monday that while positive steps have been made to ramp up exchange, India is only the United States’ 11th-largest trading partner and 18th-largest export market.

“Our commercial relationship has simply not lived up to its enormous potential,” she said, according to her prepared remarks for an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Trade between the United States and India topped $100 billion in 2014.

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have committed to hitting $500 billion in trade.

The dinner is kicking off a busy week in Washington that includes visits from Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kerry and Pritzker will meet Tuesday with Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, India’s minister of external affairs, along with members of the U.S. delegation and their Indian counterparts in what is expected to be a day of in-depth discussions.

A year ago, Modi met with Obama in Washington. The president then traveled to India in January.

Modi is in the United States this week attending meetings with top CEOs in Silicon Valley. He will also attend the United Nations summit in New York.

Modi and Obama are expected to meet in New York on Sept. 28.

“We are hopeful that Prime Minister Modi’s stated commitment to reforms in India — if achieved — has the potential to create significant positive opportunities for U.S. workers, businesses and farmers,” the lawmakers wrote.

“However, to achieve this objective, we must make meaningful progress in addressing the significant barriers that India has erected, which have prevented the U.S.-India trade and investment relationship from reaching its full potential.”