Introducing Ashley Dutta (And Thoughts on US-India Trade)

Hello fellow international trade enthusiasts!

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and share my first post on State of Trade. My name is Ashley Dutta, and I recently joined WCIT as the Policy & Communications Director. I’ll be blogging here as often as possible on trade policy topics of interest to WCIT members and Washington’s trade economy…whenever I’m not busy producing a variety of materials and media pieces to communicate WCIT’s top policy priorities.

I found my way to WCIT after working with the Washington State Department of Commerce’s international trade team, where I became passionate about growing trade in our state. My prior professional experience includes stints at a local public relations firm, the U.S. Department of State, and several international development nonprofits in India. I have an M.A. in international studies (with a focus on South Asia) from the University of Washington and a B.A. in international political communication from Vanderbilt University. I also currently work part time with Upaya Social Ventures, a nonprofit organization that builds businesses in India that create jobs for the extremely poor – those living under $1.25 a day.

Given my interest in India, I thought it would be fitting for my first post to focus on the recent trip to India by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis (who was the keynote speaker at the 2012 WCIT summer luncheon!). Ambassador Marantis traveled to India last week to lay the groundwork for the next meeting of the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF), the bilateral forum for the discussion and resolution of trade and investment issues between the U.S. and India.

The Obama Administration has highlighted U.S.-India relations as a top priority, and it’s not difficult to see why.  The Indian economy is roaring ahead, with an average GDP growth rate of 6.6% over the last decade and a rapidly expanding middle class. The country of 1.2 billion people holds great potential for U.S. companies; in fact, U.S. exports to India have increased over 400% over the last decade. Yet multiple trade barriers have popped up over the last few years that worry U.S. businesses, government officials and industry experts.

Although most of us don’t know what Ambassador Marantis said in his high level meetings with Indian officials, the State of Trade just happens to have a top secret copy of the speech he gave to a group of university students in Chennai…by which we mean, we found it on the internet. Here are a few key points from his speech:

  • Indian local manufacturing requirements are a threat to free trade: For example, India’s new Preferential Market Access (PMA) rules require all electronic products purchased by the government (and potentially the private sector) to contain a certain percentage of Indian-made content.
  •  India’s lack of intellectual property enforcement squelches innovation: India recently issued a compulsory license for a cancer therapy drug researched and developed in the U.S., giving Indian pharmaceutical companies access to U.S. R&D. This is just one of several actions India has recently undertaken that impact IP enforcement.
  • An open, pro-trade economy is in India’s best interest: Ambassador Marantis pointed out that India’s GDP surged to unprecedented levels when the country opened its economy and embraced free trade; he stressed that non-discriminatory trade policies can help innovation thrive, potentially lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Here at WCIT we agree that an open India is a great opportunity…especially for Washington state. Many of our goods and services are already entering into the Indian market – from airplanes to agriculture, and IT to retail. For example, Starbucks just opened its first café in India this fall, and of course many of our state’s global health and development organizations – like SightLife and PATH – are already very active there. While India was only 24th on the list of our state’s top goods export destinations in 2011, there is huge potential for growth – if that market continues to open for us.

So there it is: my first State of Trade blog post…maybe not quite as funny as some of Eric’s past posts, but then again who is funnier than Eric (saying that was part of my employment contract). Continue to look for my posts on topics like U.S.-India trade…and don’t hesitate to reach out to me for any reason at ashleyd@wcit.org. Looking forward to working with all of you in 2013 to ensure that U.S. trade policy has maximum benefit to Washington’s trade economy!

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