Media & Press Media & Press

Remarks by Consul General at Networking Reception hosted by USISPF on Sep 13, 2017

Consulate General of India

New York 

  Remarks by Consul General at Networking Reception hosted by United States India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), September 13, 2017 

Ambassador Frank Wisner

USISPF Board Members

Gaurav Verma

Luminaries of the Financial World

Friends of the Consulate and of India

  At the outset I would like to thank Ambassador Wisner and USISPF for welcoming my colleague Paramita Tripathi and I to New York and for  hosting this evening. Amb Wisner, I apologize for missing my rendezvous with you earlier in the week. It was indeed the hurricane which prevented our meeting.

  Diplomacy and Business are comrade in arms, if not coincident there is always healthy intersect and overlap. This makes me all the more happy to be here this evening with friends of USISPF. I have dug out a nugget from history to illustrate my point. President George Washington, on November 19, 1792, nominated Benjamin Joy of Newbury Port as the first American Consul to Kolkata. Mr Joy reached the City of Joy only in April 1794. He was never recognized as Consul by the British East India Company but was permitted to and I quote “reside here as a Commercial Agent subject to the Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction of this Country…”. Despite this rather awkward beginning, Benjamin Joy’s arrival was the beginning of a long American relationship with Kolkata – and, indeed, with all of India.

  At a time of geopolitical uncertainties, political turbulence, economic volatility and technological disruptions, India is a bright spot of growth and stability in the global economy. Despite the temporary disruption of demonetisation, done in the interest of a clean economy, the growth has not slowed much and we are optimistic of its return to above 7.5 per cent as early as next year. The IMF projects the growth to accelerate to 7.7% in 2018-19, from 7.2% in 2017-18. India’s 2.3 trillion dollar economy is the fastest growing economy in the world and most analysts predict it will remain so in the long run.  

  Growth is accompanied by increasing macroeconomic stability. Fiscal deficit, current account deficit and inflation rates are down, the Indian rupee is stable and foreign exchange reserves are at a record high. Foreign direct investments grew over 60 per cent in the last two years to US$ 63 billion in 2016, reflecting India's position as the most preferred investment destination today. With 100% FDI allowed in over 90% of sectors coupled with economic initiatives such as Bankruptcy Law, launch of Commercial Courts, launch of one-stop Government e-Marketplace portal we expect greater interest by investors in India. The roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is one such step aimed at the economic integration of the country. India’s E-commerce industry is expected to reach $64 billion by 2021. 

  Economic reforms are taking place at unprecedented pace and touch all aspects of business investment and operations cycle. Doing business in India is becoming easier by the day. Over 1,200 laws have been repealed and 7,100 measures for ease of doing business in India have been taken by central and state governments in the last two years. 

  On almost every index of economic performance - competitiveness, innovation, ease of doing business, logistics, attractiveness as an investment destination, consumer confidence and business optimism - India's ranking is constantly improving. Among its peer group, such as BRICS, India's is the most improved performance. 

  Regulatory compliances have become easier. Labour laws have been codified into a single code; number of registers to be maintained have come down; e-filing of returns have started; self-certification has been introduced; number of documents for export and import have come down to three; Customs operate round the clock at 19 seaports and 17 airports. 

  India's manufacturing sector, long stagnant, is rebounding rapidly under the Make in India initiative. India has moved up from the ninth largest manufacturing nation to the sixth largest. Digitalisation is changing growth. India is undergoing the world's largest digitalisation programme anchored in biometrics-based Unique Digital Identity of 1.2 billion people and broadband network being extended to 250,000 village councils. 

India-US Business Relations:

  This year we are commemorating 70 years of India’s independence as well as 70 years of diplomatic relations between India and the United States. The relationship has lately been marked with coordination at the highest level which can be seen from the large number of high level visits that we have exchanged in the last few years. We now enjoy what is known as Global Strategic Partnership and we are working together to advance common objectives. To highlight the importance of the relationship I can do no better than quote my Prime Minister who said “We consider the USA an important partner in our flagship programmes for bringing about social and economic changes in India. I believe that the inherent convergence in my vision of a ‘New India’ and President Trump’s vision of ‘Make America Great Again’ will create new dimension for mutual cooperation. It’s my considered view that a strong and successful USA is in India’s interest. Similarly, India’s development and India’s growing importance at the global level is in the interest of USA. Enhancement of trade, commerce and investment links will be the priority of our shared efforts. And in this context, expansion and deepening of our cooperation in the field of technology, innovation and knowledge economy will be among our top most objectives. We will take steps to further strengthen our successful partnership in the digital field”. 

  These sentiments were amply reflected in the joint statement issued at the end of the visit of Prime Minister to Washington in June 2017 which spelt out our joint objectives to include combatting terrorist threats, promoting stability across the Indo-Pacific region, increasing free and fair trade, and strengthening energy linkages.

  A perusal of the Joint Statement is not only makes fascinating reading but also charts out a road map for cooperation. As Democratic Stalwarts in the Indo-Pacific Region, a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region. Our leaders have also resolved to deepen defense and security cooperation, building on the United States’ recognition of India as a Major Defense Partner. Our leaders are committed to further expand the trade relationship with focus on job creation and to develop an understanding of each other’s priorities.

  India is looking forward to the US participation at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, November 28-30, 2017  led  Ivanka Trump. The summit will deal with four major themes viz. Energy and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Fintech and digital economy and Media and Entertainment. The Summit is expected to expand collaboration between startups, venture capitals and other stakeholders of both the countries.

  India Matters for US and US Matters for India: USA is one of the top 5 investment destinations for FDI from India. Indian companies have a cumulative investment of $15 Billion in the US economy. There is thus significant contribution being made by Indian companies and business houses to the US economy that has created thousands of jobs and generated income for the local communities. At the same time Indian skilled professionals have been a part of the US economic ecosystem and their presence has been beneficial to the growth and development of US industry as they serve to fill critical skill gaps. Studies on the subject have also concluded that the presence of guest workers, such as those who live and work on H1B visas, add value to the American economy and help to keep American companies innovative and competitive.

  Two-way trade has grown exponentially and is worth $115 billion in goods and services. India is now the 9th largest trade partner for the US in two way merchandise trade. India’s contribution to the overall trade deficit of the US is relatively small - around 3%. Emphasis must be put on a holistic and objective approach to understand the dynamics of this trade and assess its economic benefits, rather than focus solely on the numbers. Attempts are underway to address this trade deficit. In his telecom with PM Modi on 15 August 2017, President Trump welcomed the first-ever shipment of American crude oil to India which will occur from Texas in August 2017. New LNG exports from US to India are expected to start from Cove Point in Maryland from January 2018.

  India is one of the largest suppliers of generic medicines to the United States. The Indian pharmaceutical industry therefore plays a critical role in contributing towards making the US healthcare system better, flexible and more affordable.

  The presence of a large and vibrant Indian American community is a bonding factor between the two countries. Further, nearly 207,000 Indian students are studying in the US (As on May 2017) out of which over 173,000 are STEM students. They contribute over $5 billion to the US education system each year. 

  U.S. is the sixth largest source of foreign direct investment into India. The cumulative FDI inflows from the US during April 2000 to June 2017 amounted to $ 20.98 Billion constituting 6% of the total FDI inflows into India. During the latest fiscal April 2016 – March 2017, FDI from US stood at $ 2.38 Billion. 

  Despite its all-encompassing nature, diversity and richness of the ties, I think we are at the moment only scratching the surface of the potential. This sets out the task for all of us. I thank USISPF for this evening and I wish to place the Consulate of India at your disposal for furthering India-US ties. A very big thanks to all of you and I wish USISPF all success.