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Major US trade delegation on India visit

By Suman Guha Mozumder in New York
Last updated on: October 18, 2007 09:26 IST
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Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota -- one of the first American states to establish trade relations with India about a decade ago -- left for New Delhi Wednesday at the head of a 73-member trade delegation to bolster bilateral commercial ties with the country.

The aim of the mission is to provide a means for Minnesota business leaders to explore opportunities in India and promote increased exports to India and to develop and expand strategic relationships with key India and United States organisations.

"Strong economic growth is unleashing a wave of demand in India. From consumer goods to professional services, high-tech to health care, machinery to processed foods – the prospects are abundant," Governor Pawlenty said. "It's important that we make these connections firsthand," he said.

The delegation will travel to New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai from October 20 to October 27, for a series of market and industry presentations, networking events, roundtable discussions and one-on-one business events with potential Indian customers, distributors and partners.

In each of these cities there will be an evening networking reception in honor of the Governor that will be attended by local government and business leaders.

"This is going to be a historic trade delegation, the first ever led by a  Minnesota Governor who is also Chair of the powerful National Governor's Association," Gopal Khanna, a member of Pawlenty's cabinet who is also accompanying the Governor to India, told

Tony Lorusso, executive director of Minnesota Trade Office, who is going with the mission, explained why.

"Our interest in India is multifaceted. We are interested in India because it is the fastest growing country globally. There are fewer economies that are growing at 9 per cent GDP growth in recent  years and obviously that kind of growth obviously turns into many opportunities from which Minnesota can benefit," Lorusso told

"There is also a pro-western environment that favors US firms we think and then India has a such a huge young population and these are some of the reasons we are looking at India," he said.

Pawlenty and his mission will stop in China to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Minnesota's sister-state agreement with Shaanxi Province. During a one day visit to Shanghai, Pawlenty will visit China's only Best Buy store, where he will present computer equipment donated by the company to a school in Minnesota's sister-province. He will participate in an opening ceremony at the Shanghai Best Buy, the company's first store in China and their largest store in the world.

"Finding ways to sell more Minnesota products in countries with fast-growing economies and large populations is a key way to expand Minnesota's  economy," Pawlenty said. India and the United States are charting a future as strategic partners and Minnesota is uniquely poised to lead the way,' he added.

Asked about investment in infrastructure, one of India's top priorities, Lorusso said Minnesota companies are absolutely interested in environmental projects or airport projects. "There are several companies in the environmental sector that are going in this mission," he said. "They have a lot of interest in the infrastructure sector in  India as well," he said adding that there are people in the delegation who are interested in power and roads as well..

Minnesota sent a small delegation to India ten years ago led by a commissioner. Although since then there has been no trade mission to India, there has been good bilateral trade.

Minnesota's exports to India in the last ten years or so has increased 370 per cent and that compares to a 145 per cent for US growth to India. "We are outpacing the US growth to India. But besides that there are significant  investments to Minnesota by Indian companies. It is a two-way street," he said.

Indian-owned companies in Minnesota include Suzlon Wind Energy Corporation in Pipestone, Patni Computer Systems, Inc., Wipro Ltd, and Natural Stone Inc. Suzlon has been ranked as the fifth-leading wind turbine manufacturer in the world and its wind turbines are used at 12 wind park sites in southwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota Trade Office noted that India's gross domestic product grew an average 7 per cent per year between 1994 and 2004 and recently has tracked at nearly 9 per cent. U.S. manufactured exports to India reached $6.8 billion in 2005, an increase of 111 per cent since 2000. Minnesota's manufactured exports to India grew 208 per cent to $85 million over the same period.

"India's middle class is 300 million people and growing by 5 per cent per year. That's a huge segment of the population that has increasingly more money to spend on consumer goods," Lorusso said.

The promising sectors include computers and electronics, machinery, medical products, biotechnology, and food processing. In addition, Indian companies have ambitious plans for expanding and diversifying manufacturing activities, particularly in the automobile, auto parts, metals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and electronics industries, creating opportunities for Minnesota suppliers.

He said that many other opportunities will come as India implements plans to improve the nation's infrastructure over the coming decade. Over the next several years, India's transportation, energy, environmental, health care, high-tech, and defense sectors are expected to undergo major overhaul, creating greater demand for a wide variety of products and professional services.

Among those who are accompanying the delegation include Senator Satveer Chaudhary and Gopal Khanna.

The delegation with meet with the Confederation of Indian Industry as well as Wipro leadership.

Governor Pawlenty will be accompanied by First Lady Mary Pawlenty. In addition to participating in business events on the mission, the First Lady will also devote her time to raise awareness of humanitarian and social causes in which Minnesotans are involved. Some of the programs involve providing hope to Indian orphans, training and resources for the disabled, and advancing healthcare for children.

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