US, India discuss lowering economy barriers

NEW DELHI -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met Tuesday with India's finance minister to discuss lowering trade and investment barriers just weeks after the Indian government started a drive to reignite the nation's declining economic growth.

Last month, the Cabinet agreed to allow foreign retail giants, such as U.S.-based Wal-Mart, into the Indian market, a move the U.S. government had long advocated. India has also moved to allow greater foreign investment in the broadcasting, airlines, insurance and pension industries. The government also cut fuel subsidies that were contributing to its growing debt.

`'The reforms outlined by the government of India offer a very promising path to improving growth outcomes for the Indian economy," Geithner said after the meeting with Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. The meeting also included U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the head of India's central bank.

The two sides also discussed further cooperation in fighting money laundering and terror financing as well as tax issues between the two nations, Geithner said.

When asked about Indian companies' concerns about the increased difficulties in obtaining visas for employees who need to travel to the U.S., Geithner offered no solution but expressed hope for increasing business ties.

The U.S. officials were to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later Tuesday. Geithner was then to head to Mumbai before leaving for Japan to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.