U.S., India Call for Expanded Trade in Advanced Technologies

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - U.S. and Indian officials say they want to capitalize on thriving strategic partnerships to boost bilateral trade in advanced technology products.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who visited India earlier in February, said February 22 that the two countries are seeking closer cooperation in the aerospace, energy, environmental, biotechnology, medical, information technology and telecommunications industries.

“Few markets are more exciting or more significant than high tech” in India, he told the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group.

The group, established in 2002 to expand bilateral trade in controlled products that may have both commercial and military applications, is meeting February 22-23 in Washington to discuss further expansion of such trade. Such products are known as dual-use technologies.

Gutierrez said the United States sees many opportunities for U.S. and Indian businesses to develop commercially viable technologies. He said U.S. businesses are particularly interested in clean energy technologies and will send a trade mission to India in April to explore the potential for cooperation in this area.

Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson, who heads the U.S. delegation to the meeting, said India has gained far greater access to U.S. technology in recent years. This, he said, is the result of “sweeping changes” in the U.S. export control regime, which requires U.S. companies to get licenses before they can sell to India certain advanced technology products with potential military applications.

As U.S. sales to India expanded from $3 billion in 1999 to $10 billion in 2006, the share of exports that required dual-use licenses plummeted from one-quarter to less than 1 percent in the same period, according to the Commerce Department.

The head of the Indian delegation, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, said the United States and India should take advantage of significant steps taken by their leaders in 2006 to strengthen trade ties and elevate cooperation on high technology to a new level.

During President Bush’s 2006 trip to India, he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed several agreements and pledged to work to double by 2010 two-way trade, which reached $32 billion in 2006.

Gutierrez said, however, that both sides need to continue to identify and remove obstacles to trade if they want trade flows to expand further.

He said his department hopes to launch in a few months a “trusted customer” program, which would permit exports of certain advanced technology products for civilian use - without the usually required licenses - to companies in India with good records of compliance with nonproliferation requirements.

From the Indian side, Gutierrez said, the administration is seeking further opening of key markets, reductions in tariffs and tougher enforcement of intellectual property rights.

A day earlier, another Commerce Department official told reporters the administration already has identified as potential candidates for the “trusted customer” program a number of Indian companies in aerospace, chemical and semiconductor industries.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Chris Padilla said the administration does not expect huge increases in U.S. sales to India stemming from this program.  He said the administration wants the U.S. export control regime to reflect better a closer relationship with India and further build up trust between the two countries and their business communities.

As India continues to harmonize its export control regime with multilateral nonproliferation arrangements, Padilla said, the United States will look at expanding the scope of products covered by the “trusted customer” program.

“We are changing the dialogue from discussions about sanctions to discussions about incentives,” he said.

In addition, Padilla said, the administration will look closely into export control regulations to make sure that “there aren’t any vestiges of the past” among them.  Relaxing any export controls requires consultations among several U.S. agencies.

Washington imposed controls on exports of dual-use technologies to India during the Cold War when the country had a close relationship with the Soviet Union. In response to a 1998 nuclear bomb test by India, the Clinton administration added trade sanctions to those controls.

Many Indian companies believe those sanctions prevent them from doing business with U.S. firms, Padilla said.

“In fact, the point we want to make is that very few U.S. exports to India require licenses any longer,” he said.

The text of Gutierrez’s remarks can be viewed on the Commerce Department Web site.