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US official invokes Jamsetji Tata's journey to emphasise trade ties

September 23, 2015 11:49 IST

We must take action to address the impediments to growth faced by our businesses and our economies. And
we can only succeed by working together, says American Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Image: US secretary of commerce Penny Prtizker called upon stakeholders to help strengthen Indo-US ties. Photograph:Reuters/Yuri Gripas

US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, in presenting her vision for the commercial and economic relationship between India and the United States at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, in advance of the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, invoked Jamsetji Tata’s journey to the United States and his single focus to gather the wherewithal both in terms of innovation and relationships to construct a steel plant in India.

Speaking at the event titled ‘US-India Economic Ties: Ready for Takeoff?’, Pritzker said, ‘More than a century ago, an ambitious Indian entrepreneur and businessman named Jamsetji Tata embarked on a long and difficult journey to the United States. He travelled here with a simple goal in mind -- to develop relationships that would help him realise his vision of constructing a steel plant in India.’

She told the audience – comprising part of the larger US-India CEO Forum, high-level government and business leaders from both countries, including Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman -- of how, ‘Over the course of his visit, Tata met with American business leaders in Ohio and Michigan to learn about our steel industry and in North Carolina and Georgia, he toured our most profitable cotton mills,  and in Alabama, he saw our iron, coal, and limestone production firsthand. Tata even met with President Teddy Roosevelt in Washington, DC where they bonded over cricket.’

The secretary noted that ‘Tata’s story embodies so much of the promise and potential of our bilateral commercial relationship. Today, we have come together to deepen our economic and commercial cooperation -- not only between individual business leaders, but between our two countries, the world’s oldest and largest democracies.’

Pritzker pointed out that ‘the good news is, business between the United States and India has never been better -- two-way trade nearly tripled from $37 billion in 2005 to $104 billion last year, American investments in India have grown from a total of $7.7 billion in 2004 to $28 billion today, and India has become the fifth fastest growing source of foreign direct investment into the United States.’

She said, ‘This tremendous growth in bilateral commerce has created greater prosperity for businesses, workers, and communities in both our nations. Our exports to India support more than 180,000 American jobs, and India’s exports to our country support roughly 365,000 Indian jobs.’

‘US firms employ about 840,000 people in India, while Indian-owned companies employ nearly 44,000 people in our communities. These statistics are evidence of the strong economic base that exists between our countries,’ the secretary added.

Showering kudos on the Modi government, Pritzker predicted, ‘With the initial steps taken by Prime Minister Modi to strengthen India’s business climate, our commercial partnership should only grow in the years to come.’

‘Since his election, the Modi government has streamlined bureaucratic decision-making processes, raised Foreign Direct Investment limits in insurance, defence, and railway infrastructure, established commercial courts that can speed up the resolution of business disputes, and encouraged a competitive ‘race to the top’ at the state level to attract business.’

But Pritzker bemoaned the fact that for all this progress and ‘even with these positive steps, India is only America’s 11th largest trading partner and 18th largest export market. Our commercial relationship has simply not lived up to its enormous potential.’

She acknowledged, ‘We have known this for decades,’ but warned, ‘Given the headwinds in the global economy, neither of us can afford this under-performance any longer. We must take action to address the impediments to growth faced by our businesses and our economies. And we can only succeed by working together.’

Pritzker also spoke of the Obama administration’s SelectUSA programme to attract investment to the US to help American communities and described this as ‘our first-ever, whole-of-government effort to attract and assist foreign investors,’ and pointed out that ‘Indian companies have invested approximately $11 billion in the US so far -- and by designating India as a SelectUSA target market, we are working to increase the footprint of Indian businesses in our communities.’

She said, ‘President Obama and Prime Minister Modi also understand that our markets are interconnected and that neither country can achieve its economic vision without the other. That is why they agreed to elevate our commercial relationship by creating the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.’

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC