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Arun Jaitley discusses key bilateral issues with top US officials

Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met top US officials here and raised India’s concerns over key bilateral issues, including totalisation agreement and the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty.

In a series of meetings with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and US Trade Representative Mike Froman, Jaitley discussed bilateral issues of mutual interests and concerns.

“There has been a continuous dialogue (between the two governments in the last one year),” said the Finance Minister.
Jaitley who is on a nine-day US tour and is currently is in Washington also flagged off some of the important issues for India, including the totalisation agreement.

The totalisation agreement aims to protect interests of professionals of Indian-origin who contribute more than USD 1 billion each year to the US social security.

“We had our own concerns with regard to the totalisation agreement so that our professionals could get the benefit which are otherwise being denied to them,” Jaitley said.

When asked about progress made on the totalisation agreement, Jaitley said bilateral issues can only be resolved by flagging them and by flagging them repeatedly.

Jaitley also discussed issues of increased trade cooperation and preparation for the economic dialogue with them.
“There is a much greater understanding on subjects of mutual interest,” Jaitley said.

They also discussed the progress made on the negotiations of the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the two countries.

The proposed treaty, which New Delhi calls Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA), seeks to protect investments between the two nations.

India has signed BIPPAs with over 80 countries. However, it has put a freeze on these agreements following a spate of suits from telecom companies.

“There were references from the US side about their concerns with regard to intellectual property regulations in India,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley said insurance was not part of the bilateral agenda. It was an internal matter, although global investors had also flagged this issue.

Responding to a question, Jaitley said there is a huge emphasis on skilling India and there is huge investment going into infrastructure creation.

“In fact this year, I slowed down the fiscal consolidation by one year in order to spend more money in the infrastructure itself. The taxation regime is also being designed so as to help the manufacturing sector,” he said.

“And today power is in abundance. With these trends, I think, the manufacturing sector is showing signs of some revival,” Jaitley said.

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