U.S., India See Opportunities in Partnership

Two countries promise to meet regularly for talks on economic issues, financial industries and trade.

In an effort to strengthen American-India economic ties, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with top officials in New Delhi on Tuesday. The two sides agreed cooperation was vital to ensure global financial stability and launched an economic partnership to unlock investment opportunities.

Geithner and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee kicked off a new economic alliance intended to achieve a step-change in commercial ties that are often eclipsed by U.S. trade with China.

"Our economic relationship presents huge opportunities for both India and the United States" with the "beginnings of global recovery" from the worst post-war downturn, Geithner told reporters.

"We meet at a time of encouraging prospects for the US and Indian economies," added Geithner, who held talks with Mukherjee and Premier Manmohan Singh and praised India for navigating the global crisis "with a steady hand."

The U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership is part of a U.S. drive to widen its alliance with India, the world's most populous democracy and viewed as a vital U.S. partner in one of the most volatile corners of the world.

"Our ability to cooperate on economic and financial issues will be critically important to the success of global efforts" to create a more stable global financial system, Geithner added.

Geithner regards Indian support among members of the policy-setting Group of 20 nations as crucial for controlling global financial risks.

Geithner sidestepped questions about U.S. efforts to get China to strengthen the yuan in the face of demands by Congress to brand China a "currency manipulator" and pave the way for a more even global recovery.

But he said the world needs "more balanced global economic growth" that depends less on Americans buying imported goods and going into debt and more domestic demand in exporting countries such as China and Germany.

He also called for more effective international financial institutions and a more open global trading system.

India's finance minister Mukherjee hailed the economic partnership as "a milestone" that would "unleash the energy and enterprise" of the United States and the world's second fastest-growing major economy after China.

He outlined more than $600 billion alone worth of investment opportunities over five years to overhaul the country's dilapidated ports, roads, communications and other infrastructure sectors.

Improving infrastructure is seen as key to putting India's economy, expected to grow by 8.75% this year, onto a double-digit growth trajectory and lifting millions from poverty.

"There are immense possibilities for investment in infrastructure," especially through public-private sector partnerships, Mukherjee said.

The new economic partnership involves annual cabinet-level meetings and is similar to the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue.

Washington argues freer markets would give the emerging economic giant cheaper access to capital to finance infrastructure and other investments.

Trade between India and the United States has roughly doubled in the past five years but both sides are now keen to promote investment.

Bilateral foreign direct investment totaled $21 billion in 2008, still a pittance compared with flows between the United States and Europe or China.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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