India needs to open up its economy: Locke

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 4 (PTI) India needs to open up itseconomy through steps such as reducing tariff and non-tariffbarriers, lifting restrictions on foreign direct investment(FDI) and improving the protection of intellectual property,US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Thursday.

Locke leaves for India on Friday for a week-long trademission at the head of a delegation comprising some 24 UScompanies from the fields of civil nuclear, hi-tech, security,civil aviation, information, communication and technology.

Noting that India faces huge developmental challenges --ranging from upgrading infrastructure to medical devices, toenergy and upliftment of the quality and standard of life ofits people -- Locke said this is where American companies canfacilitate the Indian government''s objectives.

"But to take advantage of these opportunities, Indiaitself would have to take further steps to open up itseconomy, including reducing a variety of tariff and non-tariffbarriers, lifting restrictions on foreign direct investmentand improving the protection of intellectual property," Lockesaid at a journalist round table on the eve of his departure.

Observing that concerns that the US and otherinternational businesses have with respect to India''s businessenvironment need to be resolved, he noted, however, there wasno quick procedure.

"But we aim to start that process through the trademission next week," he said, adding that the United States hasnot given up on market access issues with India.

"We believe it is in the economic interest of the Indianpeople to open up this economy. People in both countries wouldbenefit from that," Locke observed, adding that the ObamaAdministration is pushing for mutually beneficial trade.

"No doubt that India is moving in the right direction andwill be able to work through a lot of these issues. When youlook at the last 20 years, India has opened its economy andcome further and faster than anyone ever could havepredicted," he said.

Locke argued that expanding US exports to India representthe kind of mutually beneficial trade that creates jobs inboth India and the US and will help improve the quality oflife for the people of India.

"This is really a win win opportunity for the people andbusinesses of both the countries," Locke said.

The recent export control announcement that removedIndian companies like ISRO and DRDO from the list of entitiesdenied access to sensitive technologies has opened the doorfor increased high technology trade and cooperation betweenIndia and the United States, he said. .

"These steps lead to even greater opportunities for the trade of high-technology and space trade," he added.

"The purpose of our trade mission starting tomorrow is totake advantage of that opened door," said Locke, who is thefirst Cabinet Secretary to return to India since US PresidentBarack Obama made his historic visit to the country lastNovember.

During his India trip, Locke will meet several IndianCabinet Ministers, besides top officials of the Department ofAtomic Energy, Nuclear Power Corporation of India and ISRO.

The delegation, which also includes senior officials fromthe Export-Import Bank (EX-IM) and the Trade DevelopmentAgency (TDA), will make stops in New Delhi, Bangalore andMumbai.

On the last day of his India trip on February 11, Lockewill visit dabbawallahs (tiffin caterers) in Mumbai to learnabout the unique logistics operations involved in deliveringhome-cooked food to thousands of people daily.

This lunch delivery service has been cited as a model ofentrepreneurship and supply chain management at the grassrootlevel.

"It is an exciting process by which they distribute thefood. So we want to get a good flavor of the life and theculture of India," Locke said in response to a question on whyhe wants to visit the dabbawallahs.

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