India could lead the global economy this century: US

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Mumbai, Feb 10 (PTI) India could lead the global economyin the 21st century if it takes further steps on economicreforms and opens up more sectors to foreign players, the USsaid today.

"If India continues its walk down the path of reform, ifit continues to become more open to the investments and theinnovations of foreign companies...it will stand a much betterchance...to lead the global economy in the 21st century," USCommerce Secretary Gary Locke said here.

He also raised the issues of reciprocity in trade betweenthe two countries and a need to remove cross-border barriers,saying that India continued to be ranked low on ease of doingbusiness because of such hindrances.

Locke pointed to high duties like 19 per cent levies oncivil aviation aircraft and 50 per cent on apples, besidesraising issues like limits on foreign direct investment in keysectors and inadequate protection of intellectual property.

"These measures explain why India is still ranked only134 out of 183 countries on the World Bank''s Ease of DoingBusiness Report," he said here, addressing business leaders ata conference organised by industry body FICCI.

Locke, who was in India on a four-day visit, met IndianCEOs including Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani whowere part of the US-India CEO Forum.

They discussed a wide range of critical issues includingclean energy, standards and education.

Locke said: "We have made important progress this week,not just to lay the groundwork for more sales of US goods inIndia, but to take another real step towards strengthening thebonds between the governments, the businesses and the peopleof India and the US".

Locke was here on a high-technology trade mission, whichhe had announced during President Obama�s trip last November.

He was accompanied by 24 companies,promoting technologiesand services related to civil nuclear energy, civil aviation,defence, homeland security and communications.

During his stay, Locke visited three cities- New Delhi,Mumbai and Bangalore.

In the first 11 months of 2010, US merchandise exports toIndia totalled USD 17.6 billion, up 17 per cent from the sameperiod last year. The bilateral trade was USD 36.5 billion in2009-10.

Locke said the US is seeking a level-playing field and"merely" asking for the same treatment foreign companies andinvestors receive in America, and added that his country hasbenefited by having an open trade policy.

"The simple fact is that the United States would not bethe innovative, dynamic country it is today without being soopen to the ideas, the innovations, and, indeed, the capitalof foreigners," he said. .

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