- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2012

India’s ambassador to the United States is warning that trade barriers are a threat to developing nations such as her homeland, which has a strong economy but also vast poverty.

Ambassador Nirupama Rao told graduating students at the University of Florida that national boundaries are quickly becoming “increasingly irrelevant” in a global economy.

The biggest threat to prosperity is trade protectionism, she said, urging countries to avoid imposing punitive tariffs on each other to protect domestic industries.

“It builds walls and is thus retrogressive,” she said in her commencement address Friday. “We must be alert to its stifling effects.”

Mrs. Rao noted the “vast gulfs between those who have a wealth of opportunities and those whose lives are ridden with poverty and marginalization.”

She added the prosperity breeds security, while poverty fuels “discontents.”

“We, who live in the developing world, as in India are especially conscious of this reality,” she said.

India has enjoyed about a decade of annual growth at around 7 to 8 percent, yet 25 percent of the nation of 1.2 billion still live in poverty.

“Our challenge is to deliver the benefits of globalization, and economic reform and growth to the many millions of people who must be included in and benefit from this growth process,” she said. “They must have a ticket to ride and we must do right by them …”


Nancy Powell, the new U.S. ambassador to India, echoed the words of India’s ambassador in Washington by cheerleading for broader trade and fewer tariffs.

“The business of the U.S. [diplomatic] mission in India is business,” Ms. Powell told the American Chamber of Commerce in India in her fist speech since her arrival in New Delhi on April 19.

“My team and I are going to do everything we can to bolster two-way trade and investment,” she said.

The ambassador noted that U.S.-India trade has increased seven-fold since she last served at the U.S. Embassy in India as a minister-counselor in 1995. Trade has soared to $21 billion from $3 billion. Bilateral commerce is expected to reach $100 billion this year, she said.

Ms. Powell, a career diplomat, is a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ghana and Uganda.

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