New Delhi: Underlining the need to improve the business environment in India in order to ensure greater investment inflow, US Trade Representative Michael Froman on Thursday said certain areas in the Indian economy like retail and financial services needed further opening up.
“There needs to be continued work on improving the business environment if India is going to attract the kind of investment — domestic and foreign — to meet its aspirations,” Froman said while delivering a talk on Indo-US trade relations at the University of Chicago Centre here.
“Liberalising the retail, financial services and professional services sectors would help create an open, non-discriminatory and predictable regime that enhances the development of those markets,” he said.
Noting that India’s position has improved in the World Bank overall ease of doing business rankings, Froman cautioned India against becoming complacent.
“India has recently seen a positive trend in investment activity, but it should not be complacent. As an Italian economist once said, ‘investors have the memories of elephants, the hearts of lambs and the legs of hares’,” he said.
“Businesses are keenly sensitive to the business environment, whether the climate is commercially friendly or whether bureaucracy and corruption make doing business difficult,” Froman added.
Noting with concern “Indian efforts to renegotiate and weaken existing agreements”, the US Trade Representative said India should continue on the path of opening its economy.
“India’s relatively high tariffs and continued requests for exemptions from global trade rules — the need for which has already been questioned by the Ministry of Finance — only slows India’s full participation into the global economy,” Froman said.
Lauding the reforms in India, like the landmark Goods and Services Tax, the revision of the bankruptcy code, setting up of dedicated commercial courts, and the release of the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, Froman said the US has a direct interest in India’s aim to achieve economic growth.
Earlier on Thursday, Froman, who is leading a high-level delegation here for the 10th India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting, met Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and discussed ways to improve trade and investments relations, an official said.
TPF is the bilateral forum for discussion and resolution of trade and investment issues between the two countries. It has five focus groups: agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity (intellectual property rights), services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.
India-US bilateral trade was worth $109 billion in 2015-16.