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Tuesday, Feb 17, 2004

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US seeks enhanced trade as India raises BPO issue

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Feb.16

INDIA has voiced its concerns over the backlash in the US on the issue of business process outsourcing (BPO) even as it reiterated its readiness to engage constructively with countries such as the US for bringing the failed multilateral trade talks back on rail.

"It is strange that on the one hand people are talking about opening of market, and on the other hand, banning Business Process Outsourcing. Our agriculture is fragile as it is not subsidised like in the US," Mr Arun Jaitley, Commerce Minister, told newspersons after a meeting with the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Mr Robert Zoellick, here today.

Mr Arun Jaitley

An official release said that Mr Jaitley, during the meeting, apprised the USTR on India's concerns on the issue of BPO.

He also raised the issue of recent anti-dumping investigations by the US on Indian shrimps. The release also said that both India and the US have agreed to engage constructively in moving forward the ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

At the meeting, Mr Jaitley also flagged the issue of agriculture and its sensitivities for India as a large part of the Indian population is dependent on it.

Mr Robert Zoellick

Mr Zoellick held that India needed to open its telecom, financial services and other services sectors. He said that the differences between the two countries on the issue of BPO could be sorted out through enhanced trade. Mr Zoellick said that the legislation banning outsourcing in certain provinces has caught attention here but there was anxiety over job losses in the US.

The USTR also said that progress could be made in carrying forward the negotiations despite forthcoming elections in both the countries. He was here as part of a whirlwind tour to several important countries to find ways to restart the collapsed WTO talks.

Mr Zoellick held that there were commonalities of views between India and the US on some contentious WTO issues.

"There are similarities on some issues such as elimination of export subsidies on agriculture and cutting domestic support," he told presspersons. He however, held that Indian tariffs, though brought down through reforms, are still high with a peak rate of 20 per cent as against a peak rate level of 3 per cent in the US.

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