Outgoing US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell said on Friday that the new government post elections could convene a Track 1.5 event during its first 100 days to begin a conversation on how to accomplish $500 billion in bilateral goods and services trade between the two countries.

The development assumes significance as Indo-US relations haven’t fully recovered from the impact of the Devyani Khobragade episode.

Last year, visiting US Vice President Joe Biden had, in his address at the Mumbai Stock Exchange, challenged the leadership in both countries to expand bilateral trade in goods and services from the current level of nearly $100 billion to the “ambitious” $500 billion. “This will require both governments to make some tough, but vital, decisions,” Ms. Powell said. She was addressing the American Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in New Delhi.

Negotiators from the two sides had discussed ways to achieve this when they’d met face-to-face for technical discussions in February and a logical next step in making significant advances in bilateral trade is for the United States and India to sign a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), Ms. Powell said.

“We need to push forward these negotiations because a successful BIT will bring benefits to both countries, and it could also pave the way for more far-reaching agreements that could potentially yield much larger trade results for both our economies,” Ambassador Powell said. “We are ready to discuss how India might develop that capacity in a way that does not constrain trade... By the same token, we ask that India engage with the United States, at senior and working levels, to have those difficult discussions on issues such as intellectual property rights and taxation.”

The outgoing Ambassador also shared U.S.-India bilateral trade stats. Bilateral trade in goods and services increased from almost $29 billion in 2004 to more than $95 billion in 2013 -- an average growth rate of nearly 15 per cent per year. Trade during 2013, however, grew at a slow pace of 2.5 per cent. Ms. Powell said this “starkly highlights the risk of future inaction”.

Over the 10-year period from 2004-2013, U.S. exports to India grew about 15 per cent annually and are currently at about $35 billion. “This created an estimated 120,000 new U.S. jobs,” said Ms. Powell. The top U.S. exports to India were: manufactured goods, transportation equipment, and chemicals, along with education services, which totalled nearly $15 billion during 2013.

India’s top exports to the United States were: manufactured goods, chemicals, and apparel and textiles, along with information technology (IT) services. India’s exports to the US in 2013 were in excess of $38 billion. The excess of Indian exports to over imports from the United States was nearly $26 billion in 2013. “Much of this trade was in high value products and services,” said Ms. Powell. “So, just as the U.S. exports to India create U.S. jobs, U.S. imports from India generate economic activity and jobs here”.