'Way paved for excellent commercial outcome of Obama visit'

Way paved for excellent commercial outcome of Obama visit'Washington, March 19 - The groundwork has been laid for an "excellent trade and commercial outcome" of President Barack Obama's expected visit to India later this year, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said here.

"I believe through these meetings we have been able to build the groundwork of an excellent trade and commercial outcome for the forthcoming visit of President Obama to India," he said at a press conference here Thursday after a two-day visit.

Sharma signed the India-US Trade Policy Forum Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment, a new set of rules to facilitate trade and investment flows between the US and India with US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk.

He also met Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman.

"My meetings have been useful, I can term it as a successful visit because we have taken forward what we had discussed at the Indo-US Trade Policy Forum" in New Delhi in October 2009, he said.

In his meeting with Kirk he also sought US support for taking the Doha round of world trade talks forward stressing the need to "enhance global trade by putting in place an ambitious but also fair and equitable multilateral trade regime which would strengthen global commerce at a time when the world was challenged by severe economic crises."

Sharma said he had also stressed to Kirk the benefits of commencing negotiations on a Totalisation Agreement. Due to the absence of such an agreement, Indian companies in the US were making double payments of social security, without getting any benefits.

He also raised the issues of visas for Indian professionals, restrictive trade measures and the need for reform of US export controls to promote high technology trade between India and the US.

Rejecting fears that Indian professionals eat into the jobs of the Americans, he said: "In India, we have a large number of multinationals which have their R & D hubs in India. More than 130 of the Fortune 500 countries have already established their bases in India. So it is mutually rewarded."

With Vilsack, he discussed cooperation in the field of agriculture that could be leveraged to strengthen agricultural productivity, and promote agro based industry in India, Sharma said.

Asked how he foresaw India's role in Afghanistan following terror attacks on Indians there, Sharma said: "We will continue despite the attacks that have been mounted, to deter India."

"We have reaffirmed very forcefully India's resolve and commitment to continue to help the people of Afghanistan. We have an excellent relationship and communication with the government in Kabul." (IANS)