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India, China Address Trade Imbalance

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India, China Address Trade Imbalance

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India, China Address Trade Imbalance

India, China Address Trade Imbalance

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushed China to address the trade imbalance between the two countries Monday. Reuters' Beijing correspondent Ben Blanchard discusses Singh's three-day visit to Beijing.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen.

This week in Beijing, leaders of India and China are meeting to talk about improving their sometimes strained relations. Together these two nations make up one-third of the Earth's population.

We're joined now by Ben Blanchard. He is a correspondent with Reuters news agency. He's based in Beijing.

Welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. BEN BLANCHARD (Reuters): Hello.

COHEN: India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is meeting with the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. What exactly are these two hoping will come out of this summit?

Mr. BLANCHARD: Well, I think one of the major concerns that the Indians have on this side is the big trade imbalance between the two countries, which at the moment is very much in favor of the Chinese. We have the - both the Indian prime minister and the Indian trade minister today expressing concerned that the trade balance was becoming increasingly skewed in China's favor. And the Indian prime minister said that he hoped that there would be a level playing field created to basically ease access to Indian goods and Indian companies coming into the Chinese market.

The Indians would like to see, for example, more access to the Chinese market for Indian fruit and vegetables. One of the other business issues would be India's Jet Airways, one of India's growing airlines. They had like greater access to the Chinese market and they're currently applying for routes to fly from Bombay to San Francisco via Shanghai. And that event, as we understand, has been held up and so that the Indians are hoping that there'll be some progress on that front.

COHEN: And on the political front, how much were these two leaders able to achieve?

Mr. BLANCHARD: Well, there was a very interesting comment from the Indian foreign secretary, who briefed journalists after the - after Wen and Singh met. And he basically said it's not that we've resolved or removed all of our problems, it's just - it's that we now know how to manage them. So certainly there was a lot of warmth today in the talks between Wen and Singh. But I mean there are still significant differences that remain, for example over Tibet, which the Chinese have occupied since 1950.

And of course India is home to the Tibetan government in exile. So it was discussed today. But it was more discussed along the lines of, well, we in India - we understand what China's position is. And China said, well, we understand what India's position is. And there really was no progress on that front.

Now, of course one of the other issues that they have been discussing is this disputed border that the two of them have, which is up in Northeastern India around Arunachal Pradesh. The two sides fought a brief border war there in 1962. And although there haven't been any hostilities of late - the two sides have had several years of discussions on solving this issue - there has been really no progress to date.

COHEN: Politically and financially, how does this relationship between these two huge nations, China and India - what effect does it have on the U.S.?

Mr. BLANCHARD: It is very important, obviously, because both the - you know, the Chinese and the Indian economies are growing extraordinarily fast. You know, India and the U.S. are also moving increasingly close together. And I think China does have a bit of a fear that it's being encircled. So in China reaching out to India, and also India reaching out to China, I mean both sides are very keen that the world develops in a multilateral way. And I think both countries don't like - they don't like looking at the United States and perhaps saying, you know, this is the world's only superpower and the United States pretty much can do what it wants. I think India or China would like to rebalance that old equation.

COHEN: Reuters correspondent Ben Blanchard spoke with us from Beijing. Thanks for talking to us.

Mr. BLANCHARD: Thank you.

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