Shri Anand Sharma, Minister for Commerce and Industry led an official delegation for the second meeting of the reconstituted India-US CEO Forum at Washington DC yesterday. The meeting was co-chaired by Shri Ratan Tata, Chairman, TATA Group from the Indian side and Mr. Dave Cote, CEO, Honeywell Inc., from the US side. The CEOs from the two countries discussed opportunities for new partnerships between businesses in the United States and India, and ways to promote investment and job growth in both countries. The meeting was also attended by Finance Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. The US official delegation included Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and Director of National Economic Council Mr. Larry Summers.
The India-US CEO Forum presented its recommendations to the representatives of both the Governments. These recommendations broadly covered areas like infrastructure; clean energy; education and skill development; bio-technology and breakthrough long-term ideas like a diabetes breakthrough project and strategic space co-operation.
During the interactions, Shri Sharma explained that “we are in the process of conceptualizing National Manufacturing Investment Zones as integrated industrial townships with state-of-art infrastructure and complete eco-system for manufacturing industry. This mechanism is being developed in response to the concerns on availability of developed land, infrastructure and other services for industry. A discussion paper has been placed on the website of the Department for wide-ranging consultations on this initiative. He invited the CEOs to give their comments and suggestions so that Government could take an informed decision in the matter”.
In response to a suggestion for reduction in Indian import duties on security technologies and products, he explained that 100% FDI is permitted under automatic route for manufacture of such equipment in India for non-defence application. There is a large and growing market and it would be a win-win situation for both sides if concerned businesses could establish in India. On India’s Foreign Direct Investment regime, CIM said that India has a liberal and transparent FDI regime in place except for a few sectors like banking and insurance, defence and retail trade in which we favour calibrated liberalization on account of domestic sensitivities. He said that initiatives like e-biz; incorporation of the Invest India Company, simplification and consolidation of the FDI policy pronouncements would go a long way in improving business environment.
Welcoming the CEO Forum initiative on the launching of a $ 1 billion venture capital /private equity fund for Clean Energy technology development projects, Shri Sharma said that the West, including US, will continue to lead technology development. But when it comes to adaptation, a number of emerging economies have the capability to adapt the technology to their situation. The issue is one of access to the latest technology. Hence he urged the CEO Forum to suggest specific mechanisms to make clean technologies accessible to the resource poor countries, given that these are protected by IPRs and often out of their reach. Shri Sharma also welcomed the CEO Forum initiative to participate and support the joint research centre proposed as part of Indo-US Clean Energy Research and Deployment Initiative.
Shri Sharma welcomed the initiative of the CEO Forum to establish a joint Indo-US Drug Discovery Fund and said that collaboration between research institutions and private sector cooperative research between India and the US would greatly enhance the R&D efforts in the area of biotech and health care in the two countries. Emphasizing that India is committed to a strong and equitable IPR regime and has put in place legislation and enforcement mechanisms to this effect, Shri Sharma said “Be it technology or life saving drugs, there has to be balance and sharing so that the resource poor countries are not denied access to these”.
During the bilateral meeting, Shri Sharma and United States Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk reviewed the implementation of the India- US Trade Policy Forum Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment singed in March 2010 and agreed to further the engagement to build on the success of the Trade Policy Forum by facilitating trade and investment flows between the two countries. They agreed to hold the next meeting of the Trade Policy Forum at an early date and also work towards identifying deliverables for the forthcoming visit of US President. CIM discussed a wide-range of issues including the Totalization Agreement, H-1B visas for Indian skilled labour, Generalized System of Preferences, labour related non-tariff barriers, other market access issues and removal of India from the Special 301 watch list. Tomorrow, CIM is scheduled to have a meeting with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.