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US supports Indian efforts to improve trade in Southeast Asia

WASHINGTON: Observing that the US sees great value in integrating India into the Asia-Pacific architecture, a top Obama administration official said it strongly supports New Delhi's efforts to improve trade and connectivity in Southeast Asia.

"The United States sees great value in integrating India into the Asia-Pacific architecture and strongly supports the Government of India's efforts to improve trade and connectivity in Southeast Asia - a region with which it shares many historical and cultural links," Robert D Hormats, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, said yesterday. 

The creation of an 
Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, linking the economies of India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia, holds great promise for greater trade and cooperation throughout the region, Hormats said. 

He said the idea was to spur economic development, regional growth, and prosperity through closer economic connections, increased trade and investment, and better energy, transit, and communications links. 

Efforts made by the Governments of Bangladesh and India to improve bilateral relations, whether through Sheikh Hasina's landmark visit to New Delhi in January 2010, or the signing of an MOU on renewable energy during Prime Minister Singh's visit to Dhaka in September 2011, are two examples of how the region is moving ahead, Hormats said. 

While trade among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries remains far below its potential, current political and economic conditions in the region have created a potential watershed moment to strengthen the economies and enhance the economic prosperity of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India through enhanced economic engagement with other Southeast Asian neighbours, he said. 

Hormats said the US and China are focused on negotiating high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty that includes national treatment for the companies. 

"A top priority is protecting intellectual property rights. 
Cyber-attacks are a particularly troublesome and persistent problem," he said. 

"China has agreed to a cyber-working group that will meet in July, and will include discussion of these issues. We are also urging China to end market-distorting practises by some Chinese state-owned enterprises and to embrace data and regulatory transparency," he added. 

Noting that the 
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a key component of US economic policy in the Asia-Pacific region, he said adding that the TPP is intended to be a far-reaching trade agreement that brings together some of the largest and fastest growing economies of the Pacific Rim, including Japan.