WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is planning to visit India, has urged the Modi government to carry out reforms that will open up the Indian economy and market for American companies.
In an unusually blunt remarks, Ross asked India to remove the overly restrictive market access barriers for US firms. "As President (Donald) Trump has said, we look forward to working with the (Indian) Prime Minister and his administration to address a mutual trading opportunities and the mutual investment potentials," the commerce secretary said in his keynote address to the India Ideas Summit of US Indian Business Council (USIBC) on Wednesday.
Ross said he is planning a trip to India in the near future to discuss and address some of the key issues challenging the India and US trade ties. The US official was in India just before the Lok Sabha elections during which he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top Indian government officials.
The US, he said, is a good place to invest and the country is open for business. The Trump administration has been addressing a more balanced and reciprocal trade relationship, not only with India but also with its other trading partners across the world.
US is the "least protectionist" major country, but India has "one of the highest levels of tariffs in the world", Ross said, adding that protectionist practices also hurt the countries themselves. Ross expressed hope that since Modi has been voted back to power with a stronger mandate, he would be able to carry out necessary reforms and take India towards "a more open economy"."The mindset of moving towards a more open economy" is very important, he said, adding that both the US and India would benefit from this change.
American companies based in the Indian market are confronted with both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, particularly including e-commerce rules, data localisation, restrictions, price controls on medical devices and pharmaceuticals other products. Some of these barriers are relatively new.
For the development of a viable commercial relationships, US companies need more predictability, more transparency or more consistency of regulations, Ross said, as he justified the Trump administration's decision to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for India.
GSP is a programme for preferential access to certain goods markets in the US. At the same time, Ross acknowledged that India has been making significant improvement in ease of doing business ranking of the World Bank.
The US, he said, is encouraged by India's efforts to improve the business climate and to attract investment at the subnational level. Many US companies find it advantageous to take the approach of working through their states to establish partnerships and identify customers in Indian, he said.