AMCHAM bats for free-trade pact between India, US

New Delhi: The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which is currently leading a delegation of US brands eyeing investment opportunities in India, has pitched for a free-trade pact between India and the United States.

Tara Joseph, President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Hong Kong, said a free-trade agreement would be a "game changer" in terms of boosting bilateral trade and investment opportunities.

She is part of the delegation that is currently on a three-day visit to India comprising firms such as Ralph Lauren Asia Pacific, PVH Far East (PVH Group owns iconic brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, Arrow & Izod), Carter's Global Sourcing Ltd (Carter's Inc is the largest branded marketer of baby and children's clothing in US), and VF Asia Sourcing.

The delegation held meetings with Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, Textiles Secretary Ravi Capoor and Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant on Tuesday.

The delegation is eyeing millions of dollars worth of investments in India for ramping up sourcing in the textiles and apparel sector.

"One thing that is sure about the American brands that are thinking of coming in: this is not a few million dollars of investment for a few years. If larger brands come in, they are making substantial investments beyond USD 100 million and that is for a long period of time," Joseph said while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday.

The US was the second-largest trading partner for India in goods in 2018, and the single-largest export destination for Indian exporters.

Bilateral trade in goods and services grew at an average annual rate of 7.59 per cent from 2008 to 2018, double in value from USD 68.4 billion to USD 142.1 billion.

"As a group, we want to understand what we see as a great window of opportunity for Asia, for our companies to invest in India. The way manufacturing is moving away from China, India has an opportunity to get out and really compete on that front," Joseph said.

Gautam Nair, chairman of the CII Textiles Task Force on Sourcing and Investments, said most of the American brands that are part of this delegation already have a presence in India. He said the brands are looking to explore opportunities and decide whether to scale up their sourcing from the country. The delegation's visit was coordinated by the Confederation of Indian Industry and AMCHAM.

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