By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden will press India to do more to open up trade and protect intellectual property during a trip to the Asia-Pacific region next week that will also highlight U.S. concern about aggressive Chinese navy patrols in the oil-rich South China Sea.
The trip comes as Asian economies struggle to adjust to a slowdown in growth, a situation Biden said could improve if countries including India and China pursue economic reforms.
"We want to help lead in creating the 21st century rules of the road that will benefit not only the United States, and the region, but the world as a whole," Biden said in a speech on Thursday previewing his visit.
U.S. business groups this year have escalated their complaints about India's trade practices, complaining its policies discriminate against American firms or undermine U.S. intellectual property rights, especially for pharmaceuticals.
Bilateral trade between the United States and India is worth almost $100 billion per year. Biden said there is room to increase that by five times, if barriers were lowered.
"We still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of issues, including the civil nuclear cooperation, a bilateral investment treaty, policies protecting innovation," Biden said.
On Tuesday, he will meet with President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.
Biden will give a policy speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange on Wednesday, and hold a roundtable with business leaders there, a senior administration official said, speaking on background.
Biden praised India's decision this week to relax foreign direct investment rules, part of an effort to stabilize the rupee, which recently hit a record low.
While in India, he and his wife, Jill Biden, will attend events focused on women, with her attending an event in Mumbai about gender-based violence.
India recently passed a new anti-rape law after a brutal gang rape in December sparked outrage around the world.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
Biden also will visit Singapore, where he will talk about trade. But he will also be talking with Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about tensions over the South China Sea.
China has asserted claims over large parts of the territory and made its presence felt by stepping up navy patrols.
Singapore is a part of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is negotiating new maritime rules with China that Biden said were needed to lower tensions in the region.
"He is concerned, and the U.S. government is concerned, about certain patterns of activity that have unfolded in these areas. I think you can expect that he will address this issue head-on while he was there," a senior administration official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Biden on Thursday urged China and ASEAN to press ahead on talks on the rules, and will elaborate on his concerns in a visit to the U.S. naval base and combat ship USS Freedom, the official said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by Vicki Allen)
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