India can seize the opportunity to provide “alternative investment hub” for the American companies which are downgrading their operations in China, US ambassador Kenneth Juster said on Thursday.
Observing that ‘America First’ and ‘Make in India’ are not incompatible, he said rather investing in each other’s markets will be mutually beneficial.
It will increase economic interactions and volume of trade, lead to collaboration on emerging technologies and create jobs in both countries, Juster said in his first policy speech since taking over as ambassador to India.
“But let me go further and suggest that it is time to put a strategic lens on our economic relationship, just as we have done with our defence relationship,” he said.
The Washington’s envoy to New Delhi added that a number of US companies have reported increasing difficulties in conducting business in the largest market in the region, China.
“Accordingly, some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest at alternative markets. India can seize the strategic opportunity -- through trade and investment -- to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
He noted that accelerating the economic and regulatory reform processes kick-started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help ensure that India is seen as an increasingly efficient, transparent and well-regulated market.
“This will further promote growth and development. Continued reforms and trade liberalisation will also enable Indian products to more readily become part of the global supply chain, thereby accelerating job creation,” Juster said.
Bilateral trade has increased from approximately $20 billion in 2001 to $115 billion in 2016.
“Of course, given the size of our respective markets, there is still a plenty of room to expand the flow of goods and services in both directions and, in the process, for trade to become more reciprocal,” he said.
He, however, expressed concerns about persistent trade deficits, including the one the US has with India. He said the US want to work with India to expeditiously resolve trade and investment disputes.
“In our view, fully free and fair trade will support and accelerate Prime Minister Modi’s effort to improve India’s long-term growth rate in a sustained way,” he said, adding that Modi’s determination to move India further up on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index is inspiring.
Juster further said that greater US trade and investment, combined with a strong environment protecting intellectual property, will lead to increased flows of capital and further sharing of intellectual know-how.
“Technological transformation needs a constant upgrade, which occurs when countries are involved in unimpeded international economic and data flows,” he said.
Juster also said that a strategic view of the bilateral economic relationship could eventually lead to a road map for a US-India free trade agreement.
“To be sure, we are a long way right now from that aspiration, and there are many intermediate steps to be taken. But we should find creative ways to use our trade policy forum and our commercial dialogue to enhance understanding, build confidence and solve problems,” he said.
Referring to energy and environment, the ambassador said the US-India Strategic Energy Partnership will convene early this year at the ministerial level.