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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Importance of U.S.-India Commercial Relationship

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Remarks Delivered During First U.S. Cabinet Level Visit to India Since Election of New Government

At a luncheon meeting hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks on U.S. efforts to promote a broader economic partnership with India. She noted that the bilateral commercial relationship has long stood as a core pillar of the U.S.-India alliance, and that the United States is committed to working with the newly-elected Indian government to expand that partnership, especially in areas of infrastructure, manufacturing, and business investment. Secretary Pritzker highlighted Commerce’s SelectUSA program as a mechanism to facilitate foreign direct investment from India, and announced the signing of a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) between SelectUSA and the Exim Bank of India to support Indian companies seeking a larger presence in the United States.

Tomorrow Secretary Pritzker will be in New Delhi along with Secretary of State John Kerry at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on July 31. Secretary Pritzker will lead discussions aimed at helping strengthen economic ties between the U.S. and India through collaboration in several key sectors. Their trip marks the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since the new Indian government was elected.

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. Thank you, Ajay, for your kind introduction. Thank you to the Confederation of Indian Industry for organizing this event and for leading the effort in India to connect business to government and civil society. I want to acknowledge three of the Department of Commerce's key contacts for India’s business community here with us today, and could you please stand. Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar; Minister-Counselor and Senior Commercial Officer John McCaslin who is based in New Delhi; Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally who leads SelectUSA – the first-ever, federal government-wide effort to promote, attract, retain, and expand business investment to the United States.

Along with our Foreign Commercial Service Officers across India, these three dynamic leaders are part of a long line of economic diplomats that stretch back to the earliest years of American history. In 1792, President George Washington appointed a Boston-area merchant named Benjamin Joy to serve as our first Consul in Calcutta. When Joy arrived, he confronted a British leadership still unwilling to engage directly with the diplomats of its former American colonies. So Joy’s commission was refused. However, he was allowed to stay in India under a different title: as the U.S. government’s “commercial agent.” Thus began a long and storied tradition of business and commercial bonds between the United States and India.

Today, our economic partnership has grown, strengthened by:

  • The relationships between business leaders like you and your counterparts in the United States;
  • The personal ties developed by the tens of thousands of Indian students who study in American universities; and,
  • The individual bridges built by the 3 million Americans of Indian origin living in the United States, among them many successful entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 CEOs, and innovators leading in a wide variety of key industries.

In the past and in the present, our commercial relationship has stood as a core pillar of the U.S.-India alliance. And the Department of Commerce is central to maintaining and expanding that partnership. Our Department’s Foreign Commercial Service has its largest number of overseas offices here in India, operating out of seven cities. Our commercial agents in the seven cities help American businesses navigate the landscape within India. They stand on the front lines to build stronger ties between U.S. and Indian businesses, and facilitate the export of U.S. goods and services to India’s growing markets.

Our Department is leading the growth of the robust trade and investment relationship between our two countries. Two-way trade has grown more than five-fold since 2000, now standing at more than $96 billion. American companies have invested over $28 billion in India, and Indian investment in the United States has reached nearly $9 billion and supports upward of 45,000 jobs.

Building on this firm foundation, we know that there is ample room for growth. And the purpose of my visit – here in Mumbai and at the Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi – is to open up new avenues where we can reinvigorate and deepen our economic ties. We know that India’s new government is committed to an agenda of accelerating growth, attracting investment, generating good-paying jobs for this country’s workers, and ushering in a new era of global cooperation and economic dynamism. The United States has a vested interest in seeing India succeed, in seeing this nation reach its full economic potential – and we want to be an essential partner in meeting your goals.

Reflecting the priorities of Prime Minister Modi’s government, there are three areas where we will focus our initial efforts. First, infrastructure. The Indian government and Indian companies face the pressing challenge of constructing a 21st century infrastructure. In nearly every sector – roads, power, ports, rail, airports, water and sewage – India’s government has identified great needs for modern infrastructure. One analysis estimates that India will need to spend a total of $1.7 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 just to keep pace with economic growth and urbanization. In 2012, even while confronting significant budget deficits, India’s leaders set a target of $1 trillion of investments in infrastructure, with substantial contributions from the private sector. This is an enormous figure and a daunting task – and American businesses want to help. They have solutions and expertise to share.

Updating India’s infrastructure is essential not just to bolstering business, but to serving the urgent needs of India’s people. For example, there is no issue more important to India than power generation and delivery. Securing a steady supply of energy for India’s villages will transform lives, while, at the same time, planting the seeds of economic growth in every region. This is something the United States is good at. Imagine if we helped deliver energy to the 400 million Indians currently off the grid. Whether in the public or private sector, we have the cutting-edge technology, the equipment, and the know-how to offer advice and assistance in fields like energy and transportation; ports and airports; freight corridors and urban development; IT and digital infrastructure. We are prepared to partner with our Indian counterparts to put this knowledge to its best use: to benefit workers and families across India.

A second area for us to focus on is efforts related to manufacturing. The Department of Commerce can offer a model for progress in this field by sharing the know-how of our national Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, where experts work with smaller local manufacturers to update their business plans and expand their operations, integrate the latest technologies and most efficient business practices, as well as help manufacturers address their potential export markets. We are ready to share our best practices with all of you. Working together, we can, and must, better integrate Indian manufacturing units into the global supply chains, support the further development of a well-trained workforce, and build up India’s manufacturing industry.

Third, we want to create a business climate in India that is more open for global investment. The private sectors in both of our countries have a vested interest in encouraging governments to make progress in protecting intellectual property rights, promoting transparency, and ensuring a predictable and consistent investment environment. Indeed, creating a level playing field will help India attract even more investment in its communities, thereby creating more jobs and spurring more economic growth.

From the beginning, the U.S.-India relationship has been a two-way street – and progress in each of these areas will only serve to benefit and strengthen both of our countries. I believe businesses can be key bridges between our nations and our economies – cornerstones of our friendship and sources of strength for the U.S.-India relationship. I understand the vast importance of our business connections from firsthand experience, having worked with Indian partners during my career in the private sector. We have a great stake in one another’s success.  Because when the United States and India work together, our economies grow, our businesses thrive, and our people prosper. Moving forward, we want more investment traveling in both directions. And we are ready to demonstrate our commitment in word and deed. One of our Department’s key tools to advance this commitment is SelectUSA. Following this luncheon, SelectUSA and the Exim Bank of India will enter into a partnership offering services to support Indian companies seeking a larger footprint in the United States.

Our actions will continue the rest of this week with the Strategic Dialogue – a mechanism that will help us reinvigorate, re-energize, and strengthen the U.S.-India economic relationship. And looking ahead, we are proud to announce an exciting opportunity, led and organized by CII and India’s government, coming up in November: the “India-U.S. Technology Summit – Tackling 21st Century Challenges Together.” This year’s gathering in New Delhi will address shared challenges in a wide range of area, including infrastructure and renewable energy, life sciences and sustainable cities, IT and manufacturing. I hope all of you will participate.

The success of all of these efforts will depend, in part, on all of you – the leaders of industry in India. So we are asking you to serve as commercial diplomats and as ambassadors for our strategic and commercial partnership. We want to utilize the best of your ideas and insights – and keep you connected to the American business community.

As President Obama said before the Indian Parliament, “with India assuming its rightful place in the world, we have an historic opportunity to make the relationship between our two countries a defining partnership of the century ahead.” Now, it is up to us to make that vision a reality: to solidify our economic ties, to strengthen our commercial alliance, to deepen our partnership, to build on our historic ties toward a future of shared prosperity.

I look forward to our discussion, and I thank you all for the invitation to be with you today.