US CEO forum: Can Obama-Modi chemistry give push to economic ties?

New Delhi: Can the new Modi-Obama chemistry and slogans like ‘Chale Saath Saath’ (lets move together) and ‘Make in India’ give a push to long-term, sustainable bilateral trade and investment between India and the US?

That’s what India’s Prime Minister and the US President Barack Obama have ensured during a joint address at the India US CEO Forum at Taj Palace in New Delhi on 26 January.

Though there are many issues like Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), stable tax regime, regulatory mechanism, etc that need to be addressed, a good move forward has been made in the form of the promised high-level US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. Hardselling his concept of ‘Make in India’, Prime

Minister Modi presented a three-point agenda to drive his point home before the high powered business delegations which comprised the who’s who of the Indian and the US industry.

The PM’s three-point agenda focused on:

1.Pro-active, pro-people good governance, which will help in redressing several issues and bottlenecks.

2.The state should be policy-driven, and focus shouldn’t be on individual being.

3.Consistency. “Policy itself won’t help. There has to be a consistency in approach.”

But, does India have the purchasing power?

“Our first target should be to grow by strengthening ourselves economically by making ‘Make in India’ successful. India is a land of great opportunity and we need to focus on three key areas for India’s growth and development – skill development, scale of operation and speed of delivery,” explained Modi.

On his slogan ‘Make in India’, the PM said, “It’s more than a slogan. It’s a commitment to bring desired change.” Though the government had earlier received criticism for encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence, the PM on Monday pitched for FDI in railway, infrastructure, insurance, medical devices etc. “But to get investment, we have to ensure a conducive environment. Our ‘Ease of doing business’ initiative will help in this direction. We’re committed to make India among the top 50 nations in the world to do business with ease.”

“The IPR is a very important issue and every nation should sit together and solve it. We’ve set up a joint working group of India and the US to look into the issue of IPR,” said Modi.

Promising an open business environment, predictable tax regime and to remove ‘remaining uncertainties’, as Obama raised issues of trade barriers and IPR

while seeking ease of doing business in India, Modi said, “IPR is a very important issue and every nation should sit and solve it. We’ve set up a joint

working group of India-US to look into it.” “Moreover,” the PM assured the house, “all big investment projects will be tracked by the PMO and personally, I’ll take care of it.”

The US is the sixth largest investor in India, and India-US trade has touched a record high at US$ 100bn per year. The trade has increased by 60 percent since November 2010.

Mentioning his India visit as “rich in symbolism and also of substance”, the US president said, “PM Modi has brought new energy, vigour… so that more business and growth can take place. We get to do better by taking concrete steps, as India and the US are true global partners.”

But, what Obama wants and what did he prescribe?

1.Easier to do business in both countries.

2.Cut red tape, bureaucratic restrictions and hurdles.

3.Streamline regulations.

4.Work together towards developing new technology, upgrade India’s infrastructure like in roads, railways and airports; clean energy etc.

5.Focus should be on inclusive and sustained growth so as to make people’s lives better. “Real growth is not about the figures, GDP etc, but it’s when people’s life gets better.”

6.Rights of workers to be protected.

What emerged out of the meet?

·US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

·US EXIM bank committed US$ 1bn for exports and committed funds for next two years.

·New public-private partnership (PPP) for diaspora investment in India.

·New steps taken will lead to US$ 4bn trade and investment with India.

·The trade target set by two sides is US$ 500 billion.

·To leverage $2bn investment in renewable energy.

Commenting on the meet and India-US relationship, FICCI president, Jyotsna Suri said, “The bonhomie between President Obama and PM Modi and the personal chemistry developed would go a long way in further strengthening India-US relations. In fact, India and the US are scripting new bilateral relations and decisions arrived at during this visit will elevate our engagement to a new high. We feel extremely encouraged as these will enhance the role of the US in supporting our national development priorities.”

Added Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) president Ajay Shriram, “Real need of the hour is to diversify the bilateral trade basket. The top 20 items in our bilateral merchandise trade basket currently accounts for close to 90 percent of the total. The newly announced US–India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue will convene soon to chart out the path for enhanced US–India bilateral economic cooperation.”

Both Modi and Obama expressed that the business meet on bilateral trade and investment will also extend political and strategic importance to both the nations.

“We can grow and prosper together. It’ll not only benefit the two countries, but the entire world can be benefitted,” signed off Barack Obama.