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The US-India CEO Forum agenda

Source: PTI
March 20, 2006 15:06 IST
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The US-India CEO Forum has come out with a far-reaching reform agenda, including opening up of retail sector and raising FDI caps in insurance, banking, print media and broadcasting.

In a 26-point agenda to create enabling environment for attracting more foreign investment, the US-India CEO Forum wanted specialised courts to enforce intellectual property rights laws.

The report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday stressed on power sector reforms to ensure sanctity of contracts, encourage competition, promote market-driven tariffs and set up separate regulatory and adjudication authority.

It also suggested relaxation of the United States government rules to transfer high technology to India and extension of COMSAT rules to India and ISRO.

According to the report, the US should allow and accelerate transfer of dual use technology to India and liberalise US visa regime for service providers in IT and nurses.

The US-India CEO Forum, comprising selected CEOs from both countries, was given a mandate to develop a roadmap for increased partnership and cooperation between two countries at business level.

The document, tabled by Minister of State in PMO Prithviraj Chauhan on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has recommended specific action in 15 business sectors with the potential for significantly enhancing trade and investment through policy initiatives.

The Forum wanted India to consider reducing restriction on FDI in the retail sector, move ahead on urban land reforms, streamline the regulatory, tax and duty structure, and revamp stamp duty and title registration regimes.

It suggested India should consider treating dividends from overseas companies in the hands of Indian residents at par for tax as domestic dividends to make 'outward FDI no less attractive.'

According to the report, tariff and non-tariff barriers should be reduced in all products, agricultural and manufactured, over a specified period of time by both the US and India.

It stressed the need to foster speed, efficiency and transparency in bidding process for Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contracts in infrastructure in India.

Elaborating on liberalisation of the US visa regime, the Forum said wherever the US was facing shortages of trained personnel, visa regime should be eased including quantitative restriction and yearly quotas of such visas.

Other impediments such as attestation requirement, reduction of periods of stay and prescriptive wage levels may be dispensed with, it said.

On the Indian side, the Forum felt the government should consider providing visas for up to five years and removal of FRO/FRRO requirements for US citizens to report physically once a year.

"Both countries need to make tourist visas easier to obtain," the report said.

The US and Indian economies need to be opened up further, the Forum stressed and suggested an initiation of dialogue for India-US Free Trade Agreement.

Elaborating on FDI reforms, it said the schedule for allowing FDI in Indian private sector banks should be advanced from 2009.

The CEOs wanted the US to transfer civilian nuclear energy to India to enable it to meet its energy needs and achieve energy security.

The Forum wanted India to develop TRIPS compliant system for software and published material -- print or electronic. India should pursue technology neutral policy in telecom and ensure a level playing field to allow full range of private telecom companies and public sector companies to compete fairly and fully.

The CEOs wanted the US to permit Indian IT firms to bid for its technology programmes.

In the oil and gas sector, the Forum suggested enactment of proposed petroleum and gas regulatory board and adoption of natural gas pipeline policy.

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