US lawmakers urge India to remove trade barriers

Thursday, 22 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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WASHINGTON: Calling India an "emerging global economic power", US Congressmen urged External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha for legislation to do away with trade barriers.

At the discussion with Sinha on Capitol Hill Wednesday some members of the House International Relations Committee also said they wanted India to invest in the US to ensure a balanced growth in bilateral trade.

Committee chairman Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, made the suggestion that India, an emerging global economic and technological power, should explore ways to create ways of investing more in the US.

According to Hyde the foreign minister characterised the talks between Pakistan and India as "very cautious, but very sincere".

Issues brought up by the members for a discussion included the relations between India and Pakistan, foreign trade barriers in India and the promotion of a South Asia free trade zone.

Human rights and the treatment of Christian and Muslim minority populations in India also figured briefly during the discussions, Congressional sources said.

Sinha, on a two-day visit to Washington, discussed issues, including India's reluctance to join the US-led coalition in Iraq, Pakistan-India talks and India-US cooperation.

Sinha had an unusually long 90-minute meeting with members of the House of Representative's International Relations Committee.

Hyde said: "We discussed the things that are subject to consensus with Pakistan, as well as India. And a role for India in Iraq." India has so far declined to participate in US-led coalition's operations in Iraq.

Another key member of the committee, Ed Royce, a Republican from California, said the question of Indian participation in Iraq was "kicked around a little bit", but no conclusion was reached.

He added that "still hesitant" would be an accurate way to describe the Indian position on Iraq.

According to a press statement from Royce, most of the attention in the meeting was on the US-India announcement of cooperation in non-military space and nuclear activities. But regional issues were also on the agenda, "the recent South Asia summit, the free-trade area", he said.

"We went through the details, which are very encouraging when you look at it, in terms of (phasing) out of tariffs between Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and what this might portend in terms of wealth creation, job creation, and a lessening of tensions. And of course we talked about the bold steps that are being taken between India and Pakistan, the positive developments there as well."

Another lawmaker, Congressman Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California, discussed with Sinha the question of India's future inclusion in the US government's AIDS initiative announced last year. Lantos wants India included in the $15 billion effort, which currently targets countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

The meeting, which was also attended by Congressmen Gary Ackerman, Joseph Crowley, Ed Royce, Tom Tancredo, Joseph Pitts, Gregory Meeks and Donald Payne and Congresswomen Ileanan Ros-Lehtinen and Barbara Lee touched upon a wide range of issues including bilateral, regional and international developments.


Source: IANS
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