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Indian PM begins US visit, trade frictions resurface
September 27, 2014, 5:12 am

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to Indian American supporters in New York on 26 September 2014 [MEA, India]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to Indian American supporters in New York on 26 September 2014 [MEA, India]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in New York on a five-day visit to the US, holding out an assurance that India is “open and friendly” for business and investment.

He is due to deliver his maiden address to the UN General Assembly(UNGA) on Saturday. In his UNGA address Modi is expected to call for more concerted multilateral action in addressing challenges of the fragile global economy, turbulence and tension in many parts of the world and growth and spread of terrorism.

Modi is seeking to bolster investor confidence and mend ties with the US after a bitter diplomatic row last year.

“India will be open and friendly–for business, ideas, research, innovations and travel,” wrote Modi in an oped piece on Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

Ahead of his arrival, Modi said he was looking forward to meeting President Barack Obama in Washington over two days from September 29 on the second and final leg of his visit.

The Indian Prime Minister said he will discuss with Obama how ties between the world’s largest democracies can be taken to a “new level”.

India is now the world’s third largest economy and is one of America’s important trading partners with bilateral trade reaching $100 billion.

Modi faces strong challenges, including an uphill task of easing trade spats with America ranging from protectionism to patent rights.

The US Congress on Thursday has ordered a second probe by the US International Trade Commission into India’s “unfair” trade practices, specifically targeting any new policy changes initiated by the new Indian government that was sworn in in May.

The Commission is to deliver a report to the US Congress on 24 September 2015.

“Given the recent national elections in India and the formation of a new Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, and our interest in receiving the most comprehensive and up-to-date information possible, we now request under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930 ((19 U.S.C. § 1332(g)) that the Commission conduct a second investigation concerning India’s industrial policies that discriminate against U.S. trade and investment since the first ITC investigation,” said a statement by the US Senate committee on finance.

In a separate letter to Obama on Thursday, the US Chamber of Commerce and 15 other US business associations has complained about barriers to free trade put in by the Indian government.

“Since taking office, Prime Minister Modi has declared India ‘open for business’ and promised to incentivize investment and ‘give the world a favorable opportunity to trade with and produce in India. Thus far, however, the new Indian government has produced troubling policies of its own. These actions send perplexing and contradictory new signals about India’s role in the global marketplace,” Reuters quoted a letter by the US business associations to Obama.

The Chamber is the biggest lobbying group for US business.

Obama is also likely to press Modi on India’s failure to sign a critical global trade deal at the WTO.

US officials had seen the WTO agreement as a test of Modi’s intent to boost slowing growth, and as a way to revive bilateral relations.

Meanwhile, just hours before landing in New York, Modi faced a lawsuit filed on Thursday in a New York federal court alleging he failed to stop anti-Muslim rioting in 2002 in his home state of Gujarat.

The lawsuit was filed by the human rights group, American Justice Center.

The Indian Foreign Ministry has called the lawsuit a “frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention” from Modi’s US visit.

“I can see the same similarities in the struggles of African-Americans,” Joseph Whittington of Harvey, Illinois, founder of the non-profit said in a news conference on Friday.

The case is unlikely to bring any serious legal consequences as heads of government enjoyed immunity from US lawsuits.


TBP and Agencies

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