US sees India an alternative hub for business to China

India can be an alternative investment destination for American companies which are downgrading their businesses in China, US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster has said and that his country would like to see a free trade agreement with India.

Juster said some of the US companies have been encountering difficulties in carrying on their business in China. “Accordingly, some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest at alternative markets. India can seize the strategic opportunity through trade and investment to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said, delivering a policy speech, the first since he took over as Ambassador to India in November. The speech on Thursday was organised by the think-tank Carnegie India.

Juster said he saw “enormous potential” in the US-India economic relationship, but there are also issues between the two sides which, he said, should be handled strategically and and not just on an issue by issue basis.

“But if we don’t handle it well it can be one of increasing irritation, and I’d like us to get beyond some of the small issues, and as I said, do that strategically.”

He said both countries should take a long-term view and that can really help build both the economies, create more jobs, lead to more growth.

Stressing that policies of President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ are not incompatible, Juster said investing in each other’s markets would increase economic interaction and volume of trade, and lead to collaboration on emerging technologies.

“Ultimately, I’d love a vision of a US-India Free Trade Agreement,” he said, adding that it would send the right signal to the business communities in both countries.

On the area of defence, he said some major agreements could be expected in 2019.

“Perhaps, in the next year we can announce some major agreements — fighter jets, advanced helicopters, unmanned ground vehicles and intelligence exchange.”

The envoy emphasised India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region and suggested taking Indo-US military cooperation to a new level by posting liaison officers at each other’s operational/combat commands

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