U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks with Banerjee, chief minister of India's eastern state of West Bengal, in Kolkata.
Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday pitched for the opening up of the Indian retail market for foreign direct investment (FDI) and asked the government to do more on Iran oil cuts.
Clinton said she would raise both the issues with the authorities while speaking at a public interaction program in Kolkata, ahead of her meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Clinton, who is on a three-day visit to India, met the chief minister later in the day. The meeting had gained significance as Clinton said she would discus two crucial issues - allowing FDI in Indian retail market and Teesta water treaty with Bangladesh - with Banerjee. Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress party have been vehemently opposing both the plans.
''I will certainly raise the United States' desire to try to open the market to multi-brand retailers. I think there are a lot of benefits that may not be immediately perceived,'' Clinton had said before the meeting. However, Banerjee told the local media after the meeting that these issues did not figure in the meeting.
Describing the meeting as positive, creative and constructive, Banerjee said that they discussed investment opportunities in West Bengal and that the US promised it would invest in IT, tourism, education, health and manufacturing sectors in the state.
Hillary has lauded the government of Bengal for its win. They will give full support for economic and business development, Banerjee told the reporters.
The Trinamool was the major roadblock for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in passing the retail FDI bill and signing the Teesta water sharing treaty with Bangladesh last year. The party is a partner in the UPA government at the Centre. The central government had to retract its decision to introduce the bill that would have allowed foreign investment in multi-brand retail sector, as Banerjee stalled the move saying it would crush domestic retailers.
The FDI retail would allow US multi-brand retail chains like Wal-Mart to open shops in India. So it was expected that Clinton would use the opportunity to convince Banerjee to agree on allowing FDI in retail sector. Nevertheless, there was no official statement from the visiting contingent about what transpired in the meeting.
Iran Oil Imports
Earlier in a public program in Kolkata, Clinton said that she hoped India would do more to cut oil imports from Iran, Reuters reported.
She said that there was adequate crude oil supply in the market and India could rely on alternative sources to meet its crude oil requirement.
Clinton said the US would decide in two months whether India would be given a waiver from sanctions over Iran oil purchases, Reuters reported.
However, though India has marginally reduced oil imports from Iran after US sanctions, the country has publicly rejected Western sanctions on oil import from Iran.