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US for India opening multi-brand retail to FDI

Washington: The US today pitched for India opening up its lucrative multi-brand retail for foreign investors, an issue the UPA government had deferred for lack of consensus among its coalition partners. In her remarks at the India-US Strategic Dialogue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasised the need for a hospitable bilateral investment environment.

"We look forward to working to advance negotiations on the bilateral investment treaty, to further reduce barriers to trade and investment in areas like multi-brand retail, and to create hospitable environments for each of our companies to do business in the other`s country," she said.

The UPA government`s decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in the sector has been put on hold due to opposition from its allies including Trinamool Congress. The government has already allowed 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has started wider consultations with stakeholders, including farmers, consumers and the food processing industry on the issue.

India`s multi-brand retail segment, estimated at USD 600 billion, is dominated by small kirana (mom & pop) shops. The Opposition fears that allowing global retailers in multi-brand retail would lead to job losses in the unorganised sector. US-based Walmart and France`s Carrefour are among the global retail giants that are keen on entering the Indian market. Noting that bilateral trade and investment may exceed USD 100 billion this year, Clinton said that there is a lot of room for further growth.

India and the United States, she said, are committed to not only expanding their bilateral relationship but also to furthering the work "we do regionally and globally". Later this week, the two countries co-host an important global health conference on child mortality, she said. Clinton co-chaired the third India US Strategic Dialogue with the Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.

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