Washington | With India becoming an increasingly central economy, the US should work more comprehensively to integrate the country in global economic institutions, a top American expert on South Asia has said. Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said that the US should take action and champion Indian membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
As India becomes an increasingly central global economy, the United States should work more comprehensively to integrate India in global economic institutions. APEC should be the highest priority, Ayres told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing. India seeks membership and has been waiting for nearly twenty years.
APEC membership would be a helpful step toward the possibility of considering Indian participation in an expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) down the line, and APEC membership would include (India) in a range of peer consultations committed toward the shared goals of free and open trade and investment, Ayres said. There are other economic institutions in which India should become a member, she said. India currently holds key partner status in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but it should become a member, she said.
This is one of the world’s primary information sharing mechanisms on global development, a conversation India has been participating in, but not as a full member, she said. OECD membership would also open up the opportunity for Indian membership in the International Energy Agency (IEA). Again, India is a ‘key partner’ of the IEA, but as India ranks among the world’s top energy importers, it no longer makes sense for it to be outside this organisation, Ayres said.
In her testimony, she also called to elevate support for India’s economic growth to the highest bilateral priority for the US agenda with India. A recent CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on US-India Relations recommended completion of a bilateral investment treaty; high-level discussion of bilateral sectoral agreements, such as in services; and identification of a longer-term pathway to a free trade agreement or Indian membership in an expanded TPP as an equivalent.
It also called for creation of initiatives that respond to Indian interest in domestic reform needs, such as technical advice on market-based approaches to infrastructure financing, shared work with international financial institutions to re-prioritise infrastructure financing, continued joint work on science and technology, labour, transportation, and vocational skills training.
US-India trade, she said remains well below its potential only a little more than one-tenth of US-China trade in goods, and more on the scale of Taiwan or the Netherlands. The Obama administration has held out a target of USD 500 billion for two-way US-India trade as a vision statement, but the anticipated timeframe as well as the path to get there remains unelaborated.
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