‘Opening up trade with India a priority for the U.S.’

Opening up trade with India is a key priority of the Trump administration, a senior official of the U.S. State Department has said. Briefing reporters on the administration’s Asia-Pacific policy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells — the highest-ranking official for the region — also welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement in support of peace in South Asia.

Ms. Wells will be participating in the Indian Ocean Conference in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on August 27-28, organised by think tank India Foundation.

Delegates from 43 countries, including China, India, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam, are scheduled to participate in the event.

“This annual conference hosted by the India Foundation and our partners in Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh has become an important touch point for nations bordering the Indian Ocean, and it showcases India’s rising leadership role in the region,” said Ms. Wells.

Strategic objective

“With respect to Indo-American cooperation, we see trade with India and opening up trade with India as a key strategic objective for this administration,” the official said, pointing out that bilateral trade is now at about $126 billion, an increase of more than $10 billion from last year.

“We’ve seen critical purchases by Indian firms in the aviation, commercial aviation sector; energy sector; and obviously the defence sector,” she said. The defence contracts from India for U.S firms now total $18 billion. Talking on the progress of the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, the official said: “Pakistan obviously has a critical role to play in the stabilisation of Afghanistan.”

“We’ve encouraged Pakistan to take stronger steps to ensure that the Taliban either comes to the negotiating table or [is] expelled back into Afghanistan rather than enjoy safe haven outside of the country… we welcome the words of Prime Minister Imran Khan when he discussed the importance of having peace on both sides of Pakistan’s borders.”

Ms. Wells said there are always areas of cooperation and areas of tension between China and the U.S, “but I think in South Asia, many of our objectives are similar.”

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