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Bush, Manmohan to make big trade announcements

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New Delhi, Mar 1: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush will make a number of important policy announcements relating to India-US trade which the two countries have resolved to double to 40 billion dollars in the next three years. Indian mangoes facing trade barriers in the US is among many long-pending and contentious issues which seem to have been resolved at a meeting of the high level India-US Trade Policy Forum, co-chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and US Trade Representative (USTR) Rob Portman here today. The vexed issue of the US Super 301 law also came up for discussion and an announcement is expected.

Mr Portman, accompanied by his deputy Karan Bhatia, is already here ahead of President Bush's visit beginning this evening. ''I had Indian mangoes and found them delicious. I hope to eat them in the US as well,'' Mr Portman told reporters after the Forum meeting. The Indian mangoes face a lot of non-trade barriers in the form of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) norms in many countries including the US, Japan and Australia.

The Forum has also come up with an idea of holding a bilateral Investment Summit with a focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). ''We will take this idea of Investment Summit to the two leaders,'' Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after the Forum meeting.

Mr Kamal Nath is hosting a dinner tonight for a host of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) from the US accompanying the US President along with some topnotch Indian CEOs like Ratan Tata (Tatas), Nandan Nilekani (Infosys), Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Biocon) and Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries).

Mr Portman who is actively engaged in the multilateral talks with Mr Kamal Nath in advancing the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO, said the India-US bilateral trade would be doubled in the next three years.

The US is India's largest trading partner and the foremost export destination. At present, it accounts for 16.48 per cent of India's exports and 6.26 per cent imports. However, India accounts for only 1.06 per cent of the total external trade of the US.

During the eight month (April-November 2005) period, India's exports to the US at 10.06 billion saw a growth of 15.05 per cent.

Imports for this period were 4.58 billion dollars with a growth of 16.74 per cent.

Mr Portman said India was an important destination and a partner for the US not only for trade but also the foreign direct investment. Drawing a comparison with China, Mr Portman said the level of US-China trade and investment was much more and there was no reason similar progress could not be made with India as well.

The USTR said the US would be quite keen in investing in India's infrastructure sector, particularly in the power and energy sectors.

UNI

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