India offers up a huge market for U.S.-made products, stated Rep. Ami Bera Feb. 26, during a House Foreign Affairs sub-committee meeting on Asia and the Pacific.
“It is a very interesting time in this pivot to Asia, especially for the U.S.-India relationship. There are opportunities and challenges. Prosperity and the region and stability in the region is to our advantage,” said Bera, D-Calif., noting that President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both understand the importance of a congenial U.S.-India relationship. Modi is looking for reliable partners to bring stability to the volatile region, while Obama understands the opportunities in opening up the Indian markets and the importance of the country geopolitically in bringing stability to the region, said the Sacramento, Calif., Indian American congressman, who serves as co-chair of the House India Caucus.
Bera’s remarks came during the House Asia and the Pacific subcommittee hearing titled, “Across the Other Pond: U.S. Opportunities and Challenges in the Asia Pacific.” Panelists termed the region a “potential powder-keg,” but also noted the opportunity for enormous engagement with a region that will host three billion people by 2030.
Bera, who traveled to India with Obama Jan. 25-26 to attend Republic Day celebrations, said he was optimistic about the new bilateral defense treaty established during the Obama-Modi meeting, and looked forward to concretizing a bilateral investment treaty.
“I think the president also understands the opportunity we have to open up new markets in India for American products and the importance of India geopolitically in bringing stability to the region,” he said.
Bera cautioned, however, that such agreements must take in the context of the Asia-Pacific region. “I think we make a mistake if we just look at these relationships in a bilateral way,” Bera said, asserting the need for a U.S-India-China relationship.
Panelist Abraham Denmark, senior vice president at The National Bureau of Asian Research, noted India’s fractious relationship with China, especially the countries’ long-standing border dispute.
“Many in New Delhi see a China with the ability to dominate East Asia as an anathema to India’s long-term interests, and they are thus pursuing policies designed to enhance India’s ability to check Chinese power,” said Denmark, adding that the U.S. offers an attractive option to India to re-balance China’s power and to promote economic and political cohesiveness in the Asia Pacific region.
Bera noted that new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma have extensive familiarity with the region.
“I think we make a mistake if we look at India as just picking the U.S. or China. All (Asian countries) have major trading relationships with China,” he said, stressing the importance of establishing multi-lateral relationships with several countries in the region.
Panelist Matthew Goodman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies addressed Bera’s remarks during the hearing. “India’s huge economic potential has been under-exploited over a long period of time,” he said, noting that pre-Modi India has not committed to internal economic reform.
A bilateral investment treaty between the two countries has great potential and could provide a real foundation, but will be challenging to negotiate, said Goodman. U.S. companies have concerns about foreign investment restrictions, localization requirements, and sufficient regulations on intellectual property, he said, adding that Modi has addressed some of these concerns.
India must engage in regional economic affairs, said Goodman, William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at CSIS. He noted that India is not a member of APEC – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.