| NEW DELHI, March 26
NEW DELHI, March 26 Commerce Secretary John
Bryson on Monday pitched for U.S. companies to participate in
India's massive private sector-driven push in building
infrastructure, but warned the south Asian nation's high import
tariffs could hurt long-term ties.
U.S. companies should push to invest in sectors such as road
building, railways, aviation and energy, Bryson said, as part of
India's planned spend of $1 trillion over the next five years in
a sector seen as crucial to its long-term prosperity.
"We can find areas where it makes sense for the U.S. and
India to collaborate more closely," Bryson told business leaders
at a conference in the Indian capital, New Delhi.
"There is perhaps no greater opportunity to do so than in
building India's infrastructure," he added.
However, he warned that high Indian tariffs on products such
as power equipment and fruits were putting the brakes on trade.
India exported $36 billion worth of goods to the U.S. in
2011, while exports from the U.S. to India ballooned to $21
billion last year from less than $4 billion in 2001, he said.
"If India is not able to readily access U.S. products or
attract strategic investments from U.S. businesses, our progress
together could slow down. In the long term, this could cause
significant harm," Bryson said.
Economic losses from poor infrastructure are seen as one of
the biggest bottlenecks to India's economic growth, which has
slowed to 6.1 percent in the last financial quarter, the weakest
annual pace in almost three years.
India wants the private sector to invest hundreds of
billions of dollars in infrastructure over the next five years.
But bureaucratic red tape, a lack of long-term debt and battles
between farmers and industry over land have hit construction and
funding targets in the past, hurting industrial growth.
A recent attempt to steer the Indian Railways -- one of the
world's largest but most decrepit networks -- away from populism
and towards private sector-driven reform, was blocked by a key
ally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.
Commercial ties between India and the United States
flourished after India's economic liberalisation in 1991, which
also kicked off two decades of rapid growth.
But both sides have accused the other of erecting unfair
barriers to trade and investment growth. The Doha round of world
trade talks has stuttered. India's Trade Minister Anand Sharma
on Monday again pressed the United States for a more liberal
"Our companies are facing problems with high visa fees and
increased rejections rates in the face of growth for other
countries," he said after their bilateral meeting.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; editing by Malini Menon)