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US senator seeks improved bilateral trade with India

Former US Republican presidential candidate John McCain has suggested that, starting with India, Washington move forward with a bilateral trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific region as it rebalances its foreign policy.

"India is now negotiating an FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the European Union," he said speaking on 'US interests in Asia', at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think-tank.

"And yet, we will not even conclude a narrower Bilateral Investment Treaty with India, let alone a full FTA, as we should," the senator who lost the 2008 presidential bid to Barack Obama said.

Noting that Asian countries had concluded or were negotiating nearly 300 trade agreements, none of which included the United States of America, he said: "The launch of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has brightened this picture a bit, but a deal may be years off - if it happens at all."

"Instead, we should be moving forward with a bilateral trade agenda, starting with India and Taiwan," McCain said.

"We should also move more aggressively on a multilateral track. The Trans-Pacific Partnership splits the ASEAN countries."

The US, he said, either needs to bring all of the ASEAN countries into the Trans-Pacific Partnership or push for a formal US-ASEAN free trade agreement.

"The bottom line is that America's long-term strategic and economic success requires an ambitious trade strategy in Asia," he said.

"While it is wrong to speak of a 'pivot' to Asia, the idea that we must rebalance US foreign policy with an increasing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region - this is undoubtedly correct," McCain said.