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US seeks to step up India trade talks after WTO breakthrough

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The United States wants to step up its trade dialogue with India, Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Monday, after the resolution of a global trade dispute paved the way for President Barack Obama to visit India.

[NEW DELHI] The United States wants to step up its trade dialogue with India, Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Monday, after the resolution of a global trade dispute paved the way for President Barack Obama to visit India.

Direct contacts between Mr Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month helped to end a deadlock that had prevented the World Trade Organization from implementing a US$1 trillion package of reforms to global customs rules.

In India for the first round of high-level trade talks since the breakthrough, Mr Froman urged progress on key areas of US concern such as intellectual property rights on pharmaceuticals and Hollywood movies.

"This pace of engagement is impressive, but shouldn't be surprising for what President Obama declared the defining partnership of the 21st century," Mr Froman told a business group in New Delhi.

"Our task is to build on our mutual interests, with mutual respect, and deliver on the promise of that partnership," added Mr Froman, according to extracts of his speech released in advance.

Mr Obama, who hosted Mr Modi in Washington in September, will in January become the first US president to visit India twice, completing a remarkable warming in the relationship between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.

The former chief minister of Gujarat was denied a US visa from 2005 until his election victory in May over allegations that he failed to stop sectarian rioting in 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. He denies wrongdoing.

Mr Froman was due to meet Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on Tuesday for the first round of a bilateral US-India trade policy forum in four years.

The talks will include a meeting of a high-level working group on intellectual property rights set up by Mr Obama and Mr Modi.

REUTERS