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US frustrated over pace of opening up of Indian economy

Washington: The US was "extraordinarily" frustrated with the slow pace of opening up of Indian economy, despite the issue being raised at the highest level, a top Obama Administration has said.

"As you know, (the US) President (Barack) Obama led in exports and a mission to India as part of his Southeast Asia trip last year and I will be honest, we have been extraordinarily frustrated at the slow pace of opening that market," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at a Congressional hearing.

Kirk was responding to a question from Congressman Joseph Crowley, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Affairs, who wanted to know the progress made in the increasing Foreign Direct Investment cap in India`s insurance sector.

"I have been interested in for a very long time is the investment caps in the Indian insurance industry. Right now American companies can only own up to 26  per cent of the value of an insurance company within India. Even though we`ve been working to increase that number to 49 per cent," Crowley said. "What is the status of that issue and what more can be done to ensure that our service companies can export their services to India on a more level playing field?" he said.

Kirk, who has a very good personal relationship with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, said the United States has a number of engagements with India.

"I lead a trade sort of policy forum in which we have raised these issues of them opening up their economy for more. "This would be a case that when we can finish our mid-review we are also looking to perhaps get India to sign a bilateral investment treaty which would remove those caps not only in insurance but liberalise their markets across the board," Kirk said.

There`s great opportunity for Americans in the retail, in the agriculture and in the manufacturing sectors, he said, adding "some of this US was trying to address if we can get, frankly, the right balance in the Doha round. "The rest of it we`re going to continue to see if we can`t find the right buttons to push in our bilateral engagements."

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