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India-US commercial ties at their peak: Biz council

May 27, 2010 12:31 IST

USAs India and the United States head towards their first-ever strategic dialogue, a top American corporate leader has said the commercial relationship between the two countries has never been better.

"The US-India commercial relationship is at a peak and has never been better," US-India Business Council president Ron Somers -- who played a lead role in the passage of the civilian nuclear deal between the two countries -- told PTI in an interview ahead of next week's strategic dialogue.

"When you consider the comfort level and the level of steady growth both ways, the phenomenon of the two-way street where Indian investment is coming to America and where American investment is steadily going to India, ties commercially have never been better between the United States and Indian companies," Somers said.

USIBC has seen exponential growth in the last five years, from just 80 companies as its members to now more than 350 top American companies, including scores of Fortune 500 and global Indian companies.

Somers said he is also excited about the visit of US President Barack Obama to India this fall.

This would be the sixth visit of an American President to India. "When you think about the teams that are in place at the state department, teams that are in place at the commerce department, the whole focus is preparing for meaningful and substantive deliverables that can be achieved in time for the fall visit of the President of the United States to India," he said.

"At the senior level, I think there is recognition that the economies and commercial ties have never been more integrated or stronger," Somers said.

"Now what we as business need to do is look towards even greater levels of cooperation with our Indian counterparts as we in the United States recover from a very, very deep recession," he added.

Coinciding with the strategic dialogue, the USIBC is hosting its 35th annual gala on June 1 and 2 on the theme: "A Pivotal Period in US-India Relations: Tackling Education, Infrastructure & Inclusive Growth".

The event will be addressed by external affairs minister S M Krishna, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Pepsico chief Indra K Nooyi, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the USIBC Chairman and President and CEO of McGraw-Hill Companies, 'Terry' McGraw III, among others.

Reflecting the viewpoint of the American industry, Somers said the US corporate sector is hoping for more reforms in UPA-II, like opening of the insurance sector, lifting of the foreign direct investment cap in the defence sector, the gradual opening of the multi-brand retail sector and strengthening of the patents regime.

"Clearly, what we are seeing now is consolidation in both countries, post-global recession," he said, adding that as both sides recover from the recession, there would now be some meaningful reforms that would shape the strategic partnership between the two countries in the decades ahead.

"We are going to be seeing some of the major deliverables on the strategic front coming in the near term, hopefully in time for President Obama's visit to India.

But the relationship from a foundational stand point could not be stronger," he said.

"It is clearly headed in the right direction and is built on a solid foundation," Somers said.

Referring to next week's Strategic Dialogue, Somers said the US business community wants to this talk to "strengthen the bonds of trust so that we are viewed in India as a reliable partner and.. . . such dialogues are able to eradicate any distrust or any mistrust."

"The interest of the business community," he said, "is to see that the two countries become robust partners in defence, counter-terrorism, security, space (and) in all areas where high-technology is at centre."

The inaugural India-US strategic dialogue is slated to take place on June 3-4. The US side will be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will represent the Indian side.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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