MUMBAI, India (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Indian business leaders Wednesday that commercial ties between their two countries should be strengthened and trade should expand exponentially.
Biden spoke to top business officials at the Bombay Stock Exchange in India's financial hub of Mumbai during a four-day trip to India aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. "Imagine what our two countries can achieve together in this 21st century, not only for one another, but for economic stability of the region as well as the world," he said in his speech.
Biden called for an "open and fair" trade and investment policy, emphasizing a need for India to respect intellectual property rights, lift barriers to foreign investment and market access and end confusing and inconsistent tax rules.
"These are tough problems. But we all know they have to be negotiated and worked through in order to meet the potential of this relationship. Not just with us, but with other countries as well," he said.
Biden's speech came a day after he held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of an effort to upgrade bilateral relations as the U.S. puts more foreign policy emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. Biden's trip also laid the groundwork for a summit meeting between Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington in September.
The two discussed regional security, especially in war-torn Afghanistan, and New Delhi's concerns about the possibility of the Taliban returning to power in Kabul post-2014. They also talked about ways to boost trade and reduce red tape keeping U.S. companies out of India.
In his speech Wednesday, Biden called India "an indispensable part of our rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific," a policy widely seen as a U.S. effort to counter China's rising power in the region and the world.
Biden also proposed starting three-way talks between the U.S, India and China. "All three of us and the entire region would benefit if we coordinated more closely," he said. Biden also called for a strengthened security partnership with India and appealed to India to work to reduce emissions from its rising energy needs.
After his speech Wednesday, Biden met a small group of India's top business leaders, including former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata and Azim Premji, head of Information Technology giant Wipro. "There was an honest discussion about how both governments — the Indian government as well — could be productive in reducing trade barriers that have an impact on trade and commerce," Biden said after the meeting, according to a pool report.
"We mean what we say when we say that the relationship between India and the US has unlimited potential and there is no reason why trade, commerce and intercourse between our countries can't increase exponentially over time," he said.