Tue, Feb 08, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Commerce secretary Locke wants India to lower trade tariffs


US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said India should lower import tariffs and lift caps on foreign investment to boost trade between the world’s two largest democracies as he began a six-day trip to the country.

Locke, who is leading a delegation of executives from 24 companies including Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, cited tariffs ranging from the 19 percent levy on civilian aircraft, to 26 percent on X-ray film and 50 percent on apples that limit trade.

“Even though India has made tremendous strides to open its economy, there is much more work that is left to be done,” Locke told businessmen at an event organized by the Indian Confederation of Industry in New Delhi. “India’s market barriers may protect some domestic industries in the short term, but over the long term they will limit foreign direct investment.”

The US government is pushing India to open up markets in areas such as defense, finance and retail. The nation offers a rapidly growing market for US companies, including Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc to Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co (GE), the world’s biggest maker of jet engines, power-plant turbines and locomotives.

Locke, who will be in India until Friday, will leave Delhi today to attend an air show being held in Bangalore. He will then travel to Mumbai, India’s financial capital, to hold talks with the country’s business leaders.

Locke’s trip is the first by a US Cabinet minister since US President Barack Obama visited India in November last year.

Obama announced a relaxation in export controls removing India’s defense and space organizations from the “entities list,” which restricts them from doing business with the US.

Business leaders traveling with Locke include Caroline Reda, chief executive of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc, Jennifer Byrne, corporate vice president of technology at Lockheed, and Dinesh Keskar, vice president of Boeing International.

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