US commerce secretary urges India to open markets further

NEW DELHI — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday that American technologies and expertise could play an important role in developing India's economy, but were facing significant barriers to accessing its markets.

Ross told a gathering of business leaders in New Delhi that foreign companies were at a disadvantage due to India's tariff and non-tariff barriers and myriad regulations.

Ross said India was already the world's third largest economy and by 2030 it would become the world's largest consumer market because of the rapid growth of its middle class. "Yet today, India is only the U.S 13th largest export market due to overly restrictive market access barriers."

Meanwhile, the United States is India's largest export market, accounting for something like 20% of the total. "That's a real imbalance, and it's an imbalance we must drive to counter," he said.

He noted that India's average applied tariff rate is 13.8%, the highest of any major world economy.

India's Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said India would like to work with the United States to resolve such issues in a way that benefits both countries.

"We will address the issues with the United States in a manner that will make this relationship better not just between the United States and India, but for the rest of the world as well," Prabhu said.

Ross said that American companies now have a unique opportunity to increase defense technology sales to India which in turn would help balance the trade relationship between the two countries.

Bilateral trade in goods and services registered a 12.6% rise to $142 billion in 2018.

Exports of U.S. goods and services to India reached $58.9 billion in 2018, up 19% from 2017, according to the U.S. Embassy.

India offers business opportunities in the sectors of aerospace, defense, energy, health care and environmental technologies.

Representatives of more than 100 U.S. companies are visiting India as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce's largest annual trade mission program, Trade Winds. They're looking for opportunities in aerospace, defense, energy, health care and environmental technologies.

The delegation met with government leaders, market experts and potential business partners in New Delhi on Tuesday. They also will visit Ahmadabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

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