John McCain for FTA with India

Washington: Senior Republican Senator John McCain on Monday made a strong pitch for a free trade agreement with India, as he slammed the Obama administration for failing to aggressively tap America`s trade potential with Asian nations.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank, the lawamker said the US should have aimed for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India, and emphasised that America`s long-term strategic and economic success requires an ambitious trade strategy in Asia.

"India is now negotiating an FTA with the European Union. And yet, we will not even conclude a narrower Bilateral Investment Treaty with India, let alone a full FTA, as we should," said the powerful Republican Senator, who was Barack Obama`s presidential challenger in 2008.

He cited a report that had found that as of last year, Asian countries had concluded or were negotiating nearly 300 trade agreements none of which included the United States of America.

He said the launch of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has brightened the picture, but the deal may still be years away and the US should start focussing on bilateral treaties.

"Instead, we should be moving forward with a bilateral trade agenda, starting with India and Taiwan. We should also move more aggressively on a multilateral track.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership splits the ASEAN countries. We either need to bring all of the ASEAN countries into the Trans-Pacific Partnership or push for a formal US-ASEAN free trade agreement," McCain argued.