$500-bn India-US bilateral trade? Possible, say experts
India Post, March 07, 2019

Though India-US bilateral trade stands at $126 billion, it is possible to take this up to $500 billion in the course of the next decade, experts believe.

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Advancing United States and India Relations: Mission $500 bn Bilateral Trade” organised by the think tank CUTS International here, Frank Islam, Founder of FI Investment Group, said that the target of $500 billion bilateral trade is “realistic and achievable” in the next decade.

At the same time, he said that one cannot expect much progress to be made in the next two years under the administration of President Donald Trump.

Presenting his take on the India-US relationship under the Trump presidency, Islam, in his keynote address at the panel discussion, said: “I have labeled this period the erratic relationship between India and the US. I struggled with what to name the relationship. Other words that came to mind included: unilateral, chaotic, and isolationist.”

He was of view that nothing is certain and everything is dependent on the “mood and understanding of Donald Trump”.

“There is no art to deal. It is all about getting it your way and winning. Collaboration and compromise are dirty words.”

Islam, who is also a member of the International Advisory Board of CUTS Washington DC Center, said that given the erratic nature of the current relationship, he did not expect much progress to be made towards the $500-billion goal over the next two years.
“Having said that, my council is to not give up hope but to work diligently to set the stage for accelerated progress in the next decade,” he said.

Stating that he was confident India’s persistence will “pay off big time in the next decade”, he said: “That is why I have labeled the period from 2021 going forward as the partnership relationship between India and the US.”

Islam defined the era between 1990 until 2016 as a “strengthening relationship” between the two countries on account of the post-Cold War period which saw the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, liberalization of the Indian economy and the growing Indian American community.

He also highlighted the ever-growing trade in goods between the two countries, which reached $73 billion in 2017 compared to $5 billion in 1991.

Santosh Kumar Sarangi, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, and a part of the panel discussion, mentioned that protectionist measures on both sides will undermine trade and economic potential and they need to be resolved amicably.

He urged for a paradigm shift in India-US trade and investment relations.

“The availability of labour in India and capital and technology in the US are the areas of potential collaboration,” Sarangi said.

Phil Shaw, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin India Pvt Ltd, mentioned that the US companies have started investing in the manufacturing of high technology products including defence manufacturing in India.

Ambika Sharma, Managing Director, India, of the US-India Business Council (USIBC) stressed on a five-point agenda about identifying tariff and non-tariff issues which are posing barriers to merchandise and services trade.

She also highlighted the need to identify specific sectors for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to contribute to the global value chain, developing a dialogue for product standardization and conducive policies.

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