By  on March 18, 2010

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and India took steps to strengthen trade ties on Wednesday.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Indian Minister of Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma signed an agreement to establish closer bilateral trade and investment between the countries.

The accord is “a manifestation of our shared objectives to enhance the bilateral trade relationship, but it is just the beginning of that process,” Kirk said.

“Both governments have agreed that the time has come to elevate the partnership between India and the United States of America to a higher level,” Sharma said.

The trade framework will focus on goals such as enhanced intellectual property rights awareness and enforcement, increased cooperation on health care, education, information technology and environmental services, and more partnerships in the private sector. Kirk and Sharma also announced an initiative to better integrate small and medium-size businesses into the two countries’ markets.

The trade relationship between the U.S. and India has not always been an easy one. The failure to move the Doha Round of trade talks forward has been partly blamed on disagreements between the U.S. and developing countries, including India, over market access.

India is a major trading partner for the U.S., and it is a top 10 supplier of apparel and textiles. Goods and services trade between the two countries totaled $66 billion in 2008. Gems are also a major trade category. The U.S. imported $5.6 billion of precious stones, mostly diamonds, and $1.8 billion of woven apparel in 2008, according to USTR data. The U.S. exported $2.5 billion of precious stones to India in 2008.

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