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Press Release on the visit of Commerce & Industry Minister of India Mr. Anand Sharma to US

Washington, DC
June 18, 2009 

The Commerce & Industry Minister met with US Commerce Secretary Mr. Gary Locke on June 18,2009. They had wide ranging discussions on issues of mutual concern including the Doha Round. They agreed that commerce was more than just trade in goods and services; it encompassed the whole range of activities connected with innovation, knowledge, and growth. The Minister briefed the US Commerce Secretary about India’s plans to establish new Institutions of excellence in higher education in various fields to build a world class global skilled work force. Noting that the US had a number of leading institutes in areas of high technology, the Minister expressed interest in building on existing cooperation in this area. 

Secretary Locke said that that India had achieved amazing progress in the last few decades. It was a key strategic and political partner for the US, which looked upon India as a positive driving force for growth in its region. 

The Minister and Secretary agreed that given the strong common democratic values and the tremendous advances in the Indian economy, it should be possible to forge stronger and closer bilateral economic ties by addressing issues of priority to both sides on a mutually beneficial basis. The Minister proposed that high level dialogues be held within the next three months on: (i) IPR-related issues; (ii) Market Access; and (iii) Facilitation of High Technology trade. The Minister invited the Secretary to visit India after the completion of these dialogues. 

In response to the proposal, the US Department of Commerce has decided to hold a meeting of the India-US High Technology Cooperation Group later this year and to meet under the Commercial Dialogue to discuss all priority issues. 

The Minister conveyed to Secretary Locke India’s concerns regarding the legislation under consideration in the US Congress, which would impose stringent conditions on the H-1B visa programme, pointing out that both the US and India benefited from the two-way flow of services. Referring to the study by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation launched by him at the USIBC Summit, the Minister said that Indian industry had contributed, directly and indirectly, US Dollars 105 billion between 2003-07 and created 300, 000 jobs in the US, of which 250,000 are estimated to be in the IT sector alone.

Later in the day, the Minister addressed a large audience at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on the subject of “India in a Globalised World”. The Minister described the transformation in the Indian economy after an ambitious economic reform agenda was adopted in 1991 under the then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. India had emerged as an attractive investment destination with a Trillion dollar economy and one of the highest saving and investment rates in the world. He spoke of India’s many strengths including “ first and foremost its vibrant and secular democracy”. Other assets, which had led to emergence of India as a knowledge-based economy, were its rich human resources and demographic profile. India had emerged as a leader in many high technology areas like biotechnology and space technology. It had more than 10 satellites in space and India’s moon mission had cost 1/6th of what similar missions had cost in other countries. He also touched on the enormity of challenges, which India continued to face, in particular, building infrastructure and ensuring inclusive growth. The Government had prioritized improving the rural infrastructure. It would also continue to attach the utmost priority to building up infrastructure in transport as well as in the energy sector. 

The Minister spoke of the strong economic partnership, which had developed between India and the US and suggested areas in which it could be further intensified. He urged that the temptation to adopt protectionist measures be resisted as this would only prolong recession and delay economic recovery. 

On Doha, he said that India was committed to the successful conclusion of the Round and was keen that negotiations be resumed. However, it was important that all member countries acknowledge that development lies at the core of the agenda of the Doha Round and aspirations of millions of people from the developing world could not be overlooked. “It would not be advisable to reinvent. It is advisable and wise to re-energize” he said. Asked whether India was willing to shift its substantive positions on issues such as the Special Safeguard Mechanisms for agricultural products, the Minister said that there was no single issue, which was responsible for the prevailing impasse. What was important, he said, was to break the current logjam and the best way forward was to look for the middle path. He said, “In my view, the perfect solution may not be possible. The only solution possible would be a fair and honourable solution, acceptable to all. This is what India is committed to”. He also underlined that “the Development Round must address the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of farmers in poor countries”. 

The Minister addressed a press conference before leaving for New York, where, inter alia, he called on the UN Secretary General and gave the keynote address at a joint Asia Society-CII-USIBC event on "The Post Election Landscape: The Next wave of Investment Opportunities in India".