U.S. looking at free trade agreement with India

U.S. looking at free trade agreement with India

India can seize the opportunity to provide "alternative investment hub" for the American companies which are downgrading their operations in China, US Ambassador Kenneth Juster said on Thursday while he pitched for bilateral FTA as the next big-ticket item. A number of United States companies have reported increasing difficulties conducting business in the largest market in the region - China. Juster said, "US is probably as open a country as any in the world and we probably take more immigrants per year compared to any other country". "We are working with partners to secure India's Nuclear Suppliers Group membership", Juster said describing India as a "leading power" in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US envoy took to the occasion to state that the increased heft in our economic relationship would necessarily provide a broader and deeper, long-term USA commitment to India and the Indo-Pacific region. He said that President Trump's poll slogan "America First" and PM Modi's flagship initiative "Make in India" are not incompatible. On China and the new global philosophy, Juster said, "Our strategy in the Indo-Pacific is an affirmative strategy. we want to have a constructive relationship with every country in the region. with mutual respect, that does not infringe on the sovereignty of other countries. we want to have a constructive relationship with the Chinese".

"We are concerned about persistent trade deficits, including the one we have with India".

"With that in mind, perhaps in the next year we can announce major agreements enabling cooperation in areas such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; fighter aircraft production and co-development of next generation systems, including a Future Vertical Lift platform or Advanced Technology Ground Combat Vehicles", Juster said. "We are a country of immigrants that has helped drive our economy, made us what we are and that is not going to change".

On the issue of H-1B visas issued to Indian IT professionals working in the US, Juster said that the US administration and the US Congress undertook periodic reviews of its immigration policies.

"Over time, we should expand officer exchanges at our war colleges and our training facilities, and even at some point post reciprocal military liaison officers at our respective combatant commands, " he said.

Juster insisted that U.S. aid to Pakistan has not been blocked, but only suspended, and underscored that stability in Afghanistan was not possible without Islamabad's positive cooperation.

When asked about Sino-US ties, Juster noted, "We are interested in a constructive relationship".

"Pakistan is also important to situation in Afghanistan. But we also want to make it clear that if they are going to be engaged in certain predatory economic behaviour or other activities than there's an alternative set of principles that other countries of the region are going to follow", he said.