USIBC proposes ‘5 Big Ideas’ to elevate US-India trade ties

US-India relations

US, India should do more to achieve $500 billion trade goal by 2024, says Nisha Desai Biswal.

The US-India Business Council (USIBC), led by its Indian American president Nisha Desai Biswal, has proposed ‘5 Big Ideas’ to the new Biden-Harris administration to elevate US-India trade and economic relationship to a new level.

“As leaders around the globe reevaluate global trade and investment ties, the United States and India can and should do more to achieve the shared goal of $500 billion in two-way trade,” the advocacy organization said in a new report.

The ‘5 Big Ideas’ recommended by USIBC to the new administration “as it charts a way forward on one of the country’s most important bilateral relationships: the US-India partnership” comprise:

  • Reimagine and Reconstitute the US-India Trade and Commercial Dialogues into a Single US-India Strategic Trade Dialogue (USISTD)
  • Create a New US-India Global Digital Partnership (USIGDP)
  • Restructure the US-India Health Dialogue to Expand the Mandate and Include Private Sector Participation
  • Restructure the US-India Strategic Energy Dialogue to include Climate and Sustainable Growth
  • Create a US-India Scholars Endowment to support Higher Education Exchanges

Welcoming President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, USIBC said, “Under their leadership, we expect continued growth in the US-India commercial relationship.”

“The United States and India share a common set of values, robust democratic systems, and cultures of entrepreneurship, as well as longstanding people-to-people ties that make our countries natural partners,” it noted looking forward to collaborating with the new administration.

READ: USIBC launches India Advisory Council to strengthen US-India commercial relations (April 10, 2018)

The US-India commercial relationship has seen fast-paced growth over the past decade, with bilateral goods and services trade growing 12.6 percent in 2019 to reach $146.1 billion, USIBC noted.

“Still, the relationship holds significant untapped potential,” it said suggesting “Business-friendly policies can unlock upwards of $150 billion in new trade over the next four years, as resolution of regulatory issues for both US and Indian companies opens the door for more expansive growth.”

“USIBC stands ready to support the Biden administration on work to develop the economic policies that will transform our economies and create millions of high-quality jobs at home and abroad,” it said recommending the 5 Big Ideas.

First, it proposed a merger of the US-Commercial Dialogue (led by the US Department of Commerce), the US Trade Policy Forum (led by the US Trade Representative), and other ancillary and defunct dialogues into a new US-India Strategic Trade Dialogue (USISTD).

These ancillary dialogues could include the US-India CEO Forum, the High-Technology Working Group, and others led by the US Department of State and the White House.

USIBC recommended that the new USISTD be co-chaired by the US Secretary of Commerce, the US Secretary of State, and the US Trade Representative, who would invite the Government of India to name similar counterparts.

The USISTD should focus on reducing trade impediments to strengthen the strategic relationship and support a goal of $500 billion in two-way trade by 2024, it said.

For the USISTD to succeed, both governments must build a comprehensive “wish list” of core issues of importance to industry, it said proposing setting up of an expert group consisting of senior officials, industry representatives and academic thought leaders

Second, proposing the creation of a new USIGDP, it noted, “successful Indian-American diaspora — including many in the tech sector—provides US and Indian industry with access to capital, technology, and a high-quality pool of technical talent.”

“The Biden administration should invest in partnerships that position the United States and India to lead the next generation of technology development,” USIBC said.

Following the model of the National Space Council, the USIGDP should be headed by Vice President Harris on the US side with an appropriate counterpart from the Indian Prime Minister’s office, it said.

Noting that Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technology and transformed government, industry and society, USIBC  said a significant and growing proportion of US-India goods and services trade already takes place on online and app-based platforms.

“Leveraging a strategic digital partnership with India—a global technology leader in its own right — will support US companies’ access to critical talent, a fast-growing hub for manufacturing, and a vast consumer market,” it said.

Third, noting Covid-19 pandemic fundamentally reshaped global health discussions and priorities, USIBC recommended restructuring and reenergizing the US-India Health Dialogue to create a forum that can tackle important policy issues in a post-pandemic era.

“To create a sustainable and resilient recovery, the US-India Health Dialogue should promote economic, trade, health, and social collaboration between our governments and private sector institutions from both countries,” it said.

To build a strong and sustainable Health Dialogue, both governments should create a handbook of priority issues in the health sector, USIBC said suggesting setting up of a task force to examine issues related to IPR, market access, government procurement, and technological tie- ups.

Fourth, proposing inclusion Climate and Sustainable Growth in US-India Strategic Energy Dialogue, USIBC said the appointment of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, provided “an opportune time to reintroduce climate into the existing dialogue.”

The augmented Strategic Energy and Climate Dialogue (SECD) should focus on new research and technologies to reduce emissions, as well as creating more efficient fuels to meet US and Indian energy needs.

“It is also important that the dialogue acknowledge different policy pathways the two countries may choose to achieve shared climate and economic growth and development goals,” USIBC said.

Fifth, suggesting creation of a US-India Scholars Endowment to support Higher Education Exchanges, USIBC noted these “have long been a core element in the US-India partnership.

“Indian students studying in the US contribute over $30 billion to the US economy and bring new ideas and perspectives to educational institutions,” it said.

To support people-to-people ties and strengthen skills development for employers in the US and India, USIBC recommended the launch of an endowment for US and Indian scholars.

The US-India Scholars Endowment would fund travel by US students and academics to India to teach, learn, and study, it said. Similarly, the endowment would support Indian students and researchers in the United States.

A restarted US-India Higher Education Dialogue could serve as the foundation for this work, USIBC said recommending both governments engage private sector stakeholders in conversations on the future of work and skilling requirements.

Businesses in both countries can also provide practical guidance on creating a sustainable model for funding the endowment, it said suggesting Harris chair this Initiative from the US side.

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