By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - India is ready to begin
talks with the United States on a bilateral investment treaty as
part of its effort to reinvigorate ties with a valued trade
partner, the country's commerce and industry minister said on
"We have said that 'yes, we are ready for it. We are in
favor,'" Anand Sharma told reporters after meetings with U.S.
Trade Representative Michael Froman and other U.S. officials.
Sharma said there was no date for the first round of talks
on the pact, which would set terms and condition for U.S. and
Indian investment in each other's country.
"No, it was discussed today, and we have signaled our
acceptance," Sharma said.
The United States and China agreed this week to restart
talks on a bilateral investment treaty, a move welcomed by the
U.S. business community as a sign of new Chinese President Xi
Jinping's commitment to economic reform.
U.S. business groups have been anxious for a similar
commitment from India and were disappointed when a date for
talks was not announced after Secretary of State John Kerry
visited the country in late June.
Although the United States runs a far larger trade deficit
with China than with India, India has in some ways replaced
China this year as the No. 1 target of complaints from the U.S.
business community and members of Congress.
In recent months, there has been a stream of letters from
business groups and lawmakers complaining about Indian policies
they say discriminate against American firms or undermine U.S.
intellectual property rights, especially for pharmaceuticals.
Sharma told reporters that India was far more welcoming of
American business than the current perception, but admitted it
must do more to get that message across.
He also said there was no reason the United States and India
could not meet the U.S.-India Business Council's goal of
boosting bilateral trade in goods and services to $500 billion
annually by 2020 "if we make a real effort."
Current two-way trade of about $106 billion annually is much
below the potential, Sharma said.
On other issues, Sharma said the United States and India had
agreed to work together to ensure that the December meeting of
the World Trade Organization in Bali was a success.
"We have agreed to put together a work program. Our chief
negotiators, senior officials and our ambassadors in Geneva will
meet to discuss so there is a broad consensus around the key
issues of trade facilitation and food security," he said.
"We will work very closely with all our partners ... with
the United States of America, other principle stakeholders, the
key countries, to ensure the outcome is a positive one."
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Peter Cooney)