Biden meets Indian business honchos to boost trade

Biden meets Indian business honchos to boost trade

US Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday met top India Inc. leaders, including Ratan Tata and Azim Premji, as he discussed ways to enhance bilateral trade “exponentially over time” and address issues hindering trade.

Biden, who is in India’s commercial capital on the second leg of his tour, met the Indian business leaders Wednesday afternoon, shortly after delivering a speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai.

He arrived in New Delhi Monday evening on a four-day visit.

Biden held discussions with Ratan Tata, former head of Tata Group, Azim Premji, chief of Wipro, Pratyush Kumar, president of Boeing in India, and other business leaders at the Taj Mahal hotel here for nearly an hour.

The talks were “full and frank”, Biden said later.

“There was an honest discussion about how both governments - the Indian government as well as US - could be productive in reducing trade barriers that have an impact on trade and commerce,” the US vice president said.

US businesses and members of Congress have voiced concern over the “buy India” mandate, which requires a percentage of technology goods in the country to be manufactured locally.

The US has also voiced concerns over India’s intellectual property regime, which the US feels hampers India’s ability to attract foreign investment. These policies, the US feels, “distort” trade and investment and “discourage” innovation.

After Wednesday's meeting with business heads, Biden said India and the United States are “not at odds on any strategic objective”, but need to find ways to take the Indo-US relationship forward.

“We mean what we say when we say that the relationship between India and the US has unlimited potential and there is no reason why trade, commerce and intercourse between our countries can’t increase exponentially over time,” he said.

Biden emphasised that both sides share a common goal of empowering their middle classes. The US is focused on “reinforcing the middle class” with good jobs, better access to healthcare and opportunities for a dignified retirement, he said, while India hopes to “generate the largest middle class in the history of humanity” to deal with poverty and raise standards of living.

Earlier, in a speech on US-India Partnership at the Bombay Stock Exchange, Biden called for further expanding the growing economic cooperation with India and expressed hope that, if the right choices are made, bilateral trade could grow five-fold
Lauding India as "a rising power", Biden said trade between India and the US grew five-fold to touch $100 billion in the past 13 years.

"We see tremendous opportunity and there is no reason that if our countries make the right choices, the trade cannot grow five-fold or more," Biden said.

Welcoming the relaxation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms in certain sectors, Biden felt that a lot more was needed to be done to remove trade barriers.

“We have to do a lot of work on a wide range of issues like limits in FDI, inconsistent tax system, market access barriers, civil nuclear cooperation, bilateral investment treaty and policies protecting innovations," Biden said.

The first US vice president to visit India in over three decades, Biden appreciated India's regional role and welcomed its engagement and efforts to develop new trade and transportation links by land and sea.

He also acknowledged the role of the Indian community in America's growth story, saying the US has benefitted due to the "Indian human capital".

Dwelling on Americanties with China, Biden termed it as "a healthy mix of competition and co-operation".

He called for enhanced engagement between India, China and the US. "The cooperation between the three big nations will help grow the world economy," he said.

Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill Biden, their daughter Ashley and son-in-law Howard D. Crein, arrived in Mumbai early Wednesday on the second leg of his visit to India.

On Thursday, Biden will visit the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), at Powai.

The Bidens will also visit the new premises of the US Consulate at the Bandra-Kurla Complex and interact with the staff, an embassy spokesperson added.

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