U.S., India Officials Meet To Boost Economic Ties

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are in India for talks with the country's finance officials. The visit comes as the Indian government tries to open the economy to more foreign investment, a move that faces strong opposition in parliament.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a passage to India.

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INSKEEP: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner meet their counterparts in India today. The U.S. wants to boost economic ties with the country that it on its way to becoming the most populous in the world. Talks have been pushed forward by India's new liberalizing economic reforms.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Delhi.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: It's the third round in what is billed as the U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership, and observers expect it could see the strengthening of their economic relationship. The $57 billion trade last year is expected to grow as Delhi unleashes a flurry of reformist moves.

In recent weeks, the coalition government, led by Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party, has braved the wrath of opponents and pushed measures that would open up India's huge retail sector and supermarkets to direct foreign investment. They would allow U.S.-based companies - such as Wal-Mart - into India. The reforms would also liberalize India's insurance and aviation industries, increasing the share that foreign investor could hold.

During his visit, Treasury Secretary Geithner called the measures very significant.

India is familiar turf for Secretary Geithner, having spent part of his childhood here. U.S. Embassy staff said he visited his former elementary school in Delhi this morning.

Ben Bernanke's visit is reportedly the first by a U.S. Fed chairman in modern times - an indication of the importance the U.S. attaches to emergence of India.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

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