Indo-US bilateral meet: Assistance for smart cities, more trade access, skilling on Centre’s agenda

The bilateral trade stands at around $100 billion and the US-India Business Council had said that it could touch $500-billion mark over the next one decade.

Written by Shruti Srivastava | Amitabh Sinha & Debabrata Mohantynew Delhi, New Delhi | Published: September 21, 2015 1:29:21 am

India will take up its concerns on Washington’s immigration reforms and the pending social security agreement, seek enhanced access to sectors including legal, financial and education services and technical assistance in developing smart cities, energy needs and skill development when commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman meets her counterpart on Tuesday.

“There are three aspects to the commercial dialogue — trade, investment and economic. On the economic and investment front, pending issues related to the proposed India-US bilateral investment treaty would be discussed alongside issues related to skill development in India,” a senior official told The Indian Express.

The official said that on the trade front, four joint working groups had been set up in areas including infrastructure, standards, technical textiles and services, and their progress will be reviewed. India will also showcase the work done so far on strengthening the intellectual property rights regime in the country. As such, the government has already announced that it will soon come out with a national IPR policy amid questions raised by US lobby groups on New Delhi’s existing regime.

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US trade representative Michael Froman and Nirmala Sitharaman will hold a bilateral meeting on September 22 after attending India-US CEO Forum a day before. She will also meet US secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker. The meeting is a prelude to the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ireland and the US from September 23-28. The Prime Minister’s visit to West Coast of the US will focus on start-ups, innovation and technology while he is also scheduled to meet top tech honchos such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and visit the campuses of the iconic IT firms. In New York, Modi will address the UN General Assembly besides interacting with Indian community in San Jose.

“In August, Indian officials had made a presentation regarding the totalisation agreement, which has been pending for a long time now. Though the social security contributions are made by Indians in the US, they can’t avail it due to lack of such an agreement. Despite US President Barack Obama’s commitment to hold discussion on the elements required both countries to push an India-US totalisation agreement, there is no indication of it happening any time soon,” the official added.

After launching PM Jan Dhan Yojana, India has intensified its push for clinching a social security deal, which it has already signed with countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Portugal, and Australia for the protection of Indian professionals working in these countries.

The US has been arguing that in absence of a social security scheme in India, the deal was not workable.

Further, India will seek further cooperation with the US in developing smart cities. In January this year, the two nations had agreed to form a join working group for developing Allahabad, Ajmer and Vishakhapatnam as smart cities and had set a three-month deadline for preparing a road map.

The bilateral trade stands at around $100 billion and the US-India Business Council had said that it could touch $500-billion mark over the next one decade.

“We will also raise the issue of standards and conformity assessment in the sectors of agriculture, food processing, textiles and pharma. There should be mutual recognition of standards, conformity assessment and accredition. India will propose setting up a mechanism for this,” the official said adding that India is also trying to partner with industries in the US on technical textiles.

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