U.S., India discuss intellectual property concerns

India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (L) speaks with Timothy Geithner, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (Reuters)

By Idrees Ali WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday that senior Obama administration officials had raised U.S. concerns with him about India’s handling of intellectual property rights during his U.S. visit this week. Jaitley held talks with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker during a tour that has taken him to New York and Washington, including meetings with CEOs and think tanks. His main purpose has been to seek more U.S. investment in India, Asia's third largest economy. While offering a mostly upbeat assessment of his trip so far, Jaitley said discussions with U.S. counterparts had also touched upon contentious issues between the two countries. “There are references on the U.S. side to their concerns with regard to intellectual property regulations in India,” he told a news conference in Washington. In an annual review of trading partners published in late April, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said India – along with 12 other countries - remained on a U.S. priority watch list for lax rules on copyright, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights violations. But USTR also said there had been signs of progress in addressing intellectual property concerns and the United States expected "substantive and measurable improvements." Intellectual property concerns and trade protectionism have long been cited by U.S. companies as obstacles to doing more business in India. Jaitley said he also raised with U.S. officials India’s concern about reaching a Totalization Agreement "so that our professionals could get the benefits which have otherwise been denied to them.” Completion of such an accord would allow Indians working in the United States to avoid double taxation on social security. Another topic of discussion was continued efforts to reach a Bilateral Investment Treaty, Jaitley said. The finance minister is seeking increased U.S. investment with the promise of more stable, transparent economic policies. Since taking office last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sparked optimism that he can implement significant reforms. "In an otherwise troubled times of the global economy, India clearly is a bright spot," said Jaitley, who heads to San Francisco on Sunday to meet with other potential investors. India's economy is expected to grow 7.5 per cent this year, according to the latest World Bank forecast. But Jaitley said earlier on his trip that reforms could lead to even higher growth rates this year. (Editing by Matt Spetalnick and W Simon)