‘Obama believes commerce is strategic’

The recent understanding between India and the U.S. that strategic and commercial interests of both countries were one compact came from President Barack Obama, a senior U.S. official has said. “This notion that commerce is strategic comes from the highest level,” he said. Both countries had their first Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in September, combining the two separate annual dialogues.

“Closer commercial ties can provide ballast to our relationship when occasional irritants pop up. It can serve as the basis for greater cooperation and engagement elsewhere in Asia: National economic strength can help both countries ensure the Rebalance to Asia and Act East policies have staying power. And it will help support democratic India’s growing positive role in world affairs,” Arun M. Kumar, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, said.

The Indian government was aware of the hurdles in the path of economic progress and was taking positive steps, the U.S. official said, addressing a gathering at the Atlantic Council. “The Modi government is aware of the hurdles, and while it is not moving as fast as some would like, it has taken a number of initial, positive steps.”

Noting the Indian improvement in the recently released World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index, Mr. Kumar said this “incremental progress,” was “progress in the right direction.” India had moved up from rank 134 to 130 over the pervious year.

The U.S. official said bureaucratic capacity; the overall ease of doing business; systemic infrastructure bottlenecks; and the challenge of finding adequate financing to complete infrastructure and other large-scale projects, continued to remain big challenges before India’s ambitions and ties with the US.

“India is only our 11th largest trading partner and 18th largest export market. Two-way trade is more than five times smaller than in the U.S.-China relationship,” he pointed out.

The Indian government is aware of the hurdles in the path of economic progress and is taking positive steps