Business groups keep eye on India after change in leadership

Businesses groups are keeping a close eye on India as the nation undergoes a change of leadership many hope will rekindle a strong trading partnership with the United States.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed optimism that new the prime minister, Narendra Modi, can steer the nation toward a better U.S.-India partnership that has been damaged by trade practice disputes. 

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Modi, India's opposition leader, captured an overwhelming victory on Friday after weeks of voting, providing a glimmer of hope for the troubled relationship.

"It’s a great opportunity with the election to recalibrate and to move forward on much stronger economic path between the U.S. and India,” said Linda Dempsey, NAM's vice president of international economic affairs and co-chairwoman of the Alliance for Fair Trade with India (AFTI).

Chris Moore, NAM’s senior director for international business policy, said his group will look at who Modi appoints to key trade and commerce posts because they will be the "custodians of the bilateral commercial relationship" between the two nations.

From there they will focus on whether India shows a willingness to reengage on economic issues and “a return to a more normal and regular dialogue on trade and investment issues.”

He said the dialogue has died out in recent years and that without regular discussions it is "much more difficult to resolve issues when one side refuses to engage in conversation.”

In the past few years, the business groups have voiced "deep and and widespread concern" about India’s continued and growing discriminatory actions against a wide array of sectors, which they say are harming the U.S. economy.

By all accounts it was Modi’s focus on reviving the the nation’s ailing economy that led him to a decisive victory.

President Obama called Modi on Friday to congratulate him on his victory and say he is looking forward to working closely with him to fulfill the “extraordinary promise” of the U.S.-India strategic partnership.

They agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation and the president invited him to visit Washington “at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship,” the White House said in a statement.

How that plays out for the U.S.-India relationship remains to be seen.

"We hope the new government of India seizes the opportunity to take a look at the trade and intellectual property concerns highlighted by the business community,” said Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We urge the new government to engage their U.S. government counterparts and consult with the business community to find a path forward that strengthens India’s IP environment, which will improve investment and international trade.”