WASHINGTON: Secretary of State John Kerry will push India to make it easier for U.S. companies to do business there on a trip next week that also takes him to Europe to meet officials from Oman, Iran and Bulgaria, U.S. officials said on Friday.
Earlier this week, the State Department said Kerry would travel to India this weekend to attend an investment summit promoted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held in the city of Ahmedabad, in Modi's home state of Gujarat.
Among the top agenda items on Kerry's trip, which is to be followed by a visit to India by President Barack Obamafor India's Jan. 26 Republic Day celebrations, is breaking down some of the barriers to U.S. companies.
These include the challenges of local content requirements and patent enforcement as well as liability protections for companies that hope to build nuclear power plants for Indian's burgeoning need for electricity for its 1.2 billion people.
"There are some tricky issues, which I think the (Indian) government is working its way through," a senior State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"We do think that we're seeing some progress," the official said, adding that there was no expectation of any breakthroughs during Kerry's visit and that it was too early to tell if there might be any when Obama goes to India.
While in India, Kerry will meet Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan, becoming the first U.S. Cabinet member to meet a senior official from the small country wedged in the Himalayas between India and China, U.S. officials said.
On his way to India, Kerry will stop in Munich to call on Oman's Sultan Qaboos, who has been receiving medical treatment in Germany. A U.S. official said Kerry wished "to express his gratitude for their longstanding and strong relationship."
On his way back, he will discuss Iran's nuclear program with the Iranian foreign minister in Geneva on Wednesday. He then visits Bulgaria, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, to discuss security cooperation and energy diversification.