By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden
will press India to do more to open up trade and protect
intellectual property during a trip to the Asia-Pacific region
next week that will also highlight U.S. concern about aggressive
Chinese navy patrols in the oil-rich South China Sea.
The trip comes as Asian economies struggle to adjust to a
slowdown in growth, a situation Biden said could improve if
countries including India and China pursue economic reforms.
"We want to help lead in creating the 21st century rules of
the road that will benefit not only the United States, and the
region, but the world as a whole," Biden said in a speech on
Thursday previewing his visit.
U.S. business groups this year have escalated their
complaints about India's trade practices, complaining its
policies discriminate against American firms or undermine U.S.
intellectual property rights, especially for pharmaceuticals.
Bilateral trade between the United States and India is worth
almost $100 billion per year. Biden said there is room to
increase that by five times, if barriers were lowered.
"We still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of
issues, including the civil nuclear cooperation, a bilateral
investment treaty, policies protecting innovation," Biden said.
On Tuesday, he will meet with President Pranab Mukherjee,
Vice President Hamid Ansari, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
in New Delhi.
Biden will give a policy speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange
on Wednesday, and hold a roundtable with business leaders there,
a senior administration official said, speaking on background.
Biden praised India's decision this week to relax foreign
direct investment rules, part of an effort to stabilize the
rupee, which recently hit a record low.
While in India, he and his wife, Jill Biden, will attend
events focused on women, with her attending an event in Mumbai
about gender-based violence.
India recently passed a new anti-rape law after a brutal
gang rape in December sparked outrage around the world.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
Biden also will visit Singapore, where he will talk about
trade. But he will also be talking with Singaporean President
Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about
tensions over the South China Sea.
China has asserted claims over large parts of the territory
and made its presence felt by stepping up navy patrols.
Singapore is a part of the 10-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is negotiating new
maritime rules with China that Biden said were needed to lower
tensions in the region.
"He is concerned, and the U.S. government is concerned,
about certain patterns of activity that have unfolded in these
areas. I think you can expect that he will address this issue
head-on while he was there," a senior administration official
told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Biden on Thursday urged China and ASEAN to press ahead on
talks on the rules, and will elaborate on his concerns in a
visit to the U.S. naval base and combat ship USS Freedom, the
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by