Mumbai: Wishing all those “lighting up the diya on Diwali saal mubarak,” visiting American President Barack Obama on Saturday set the tenor of his maiden India visit by declaring that increased investment by US companies in India and easing of hi-tech rules would be a “win-win situation for both countries.”
Obama was addressing corporate honchos from India, after
discussions with them on crucial areas of cooperation like pharma,
manufacturing, transportation and clean energy.
Making the trip against the backdrop of strong electoral
reverses on top of slow economic recovery, evidenced by the
high unemployment rate, Obama appeared to strongly bat for
American access to Indian market, saying US companies wanted
to invest more in India.
Obama began by reminding the gathering that he was the first US President to celebrate Diwali at the White House.
“I had very productive discussions with the US and India businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said to a packed hall in the Trident Hotel here at the US-India Business Council meet.
Obama harped on how the US and India shared common values and aspirations and that their relationship would define the 21st Century. He lauded India’s growth story.
“The sheer size and pace of India’s progress is stunning in human history,” he said, adding India’s economic strides had lifted millions out of poverty.
He announced that at least 20 deals worth USD 10bn (nearly Rs 44,000 crore)would be signed on his maiden trip to India. “Several landmark deals have been made before my landing; Boeing is to sell dozens of planes and GE to sell 100 engines. The deals are worth USD 10 billion and will create more than 50,000 jobs in the US,” he informed.
Just before the address at USIBC, Reliance Power
announced power equipment deal for 2,400 MW plants from GE and
low-cost carrier Spicejet announced a deal to buy 33 new
generation 737 aircraft from Boeing.
“Americans have helped build India and India has helped build the US,” he said as he mentioned the Green revolution and Indian investment in his country’s economy, which was having the second fastest growth.
"And (yet) there still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centres and back-offices that cost American jobs. That`s a real perception," the President added in reference to critics who say outsourcing to countries like India has caused thousands of job losses in the US.
Importantly, Obama said creating jobs and increasing investments was a two way street and both sides should stand to gain.
"In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India," said Obama.
"It is a dynamic two way relationship which is creating jobs, growth and higher living standards in both our countries and that is the truth. As we look to India today, the United States see the opportunity to sell exports to one of the fastest growing markets in the world."
But, he went on to add, that Indian companies did take away jobs from India and that needed to be balanced out by the Indian government.
“Backoffices in India cost American jobs; We don`t want
one-way traffic in trade; It`s a dynamic two-way relationship
for jobs and higher living standards,” he said, suggesting that India further work on its trade restrictions even as US was firm on its own commitments towards it.
"...Going forward that commitment must be matched by a steady
reduction in barriers to trade and foreign investments from
agriculture to infrastructure, from retail to telecom, because
in a global economy new growth and jobs flow to countries that
lower barriers to trade and investment," Obama said.
He announced he would work with India towards easing of export rules which could result in ending the
technology denial regime against Indian entities such as DRDO
Obama also went on to touch upon the sensitive area of visa fee hike and outsourcing restrictions in the US, when he declared, “We don’t want to unfairly target companies or people in India.”
Continuing with his focus on trade, Obama said he wanted the trade between the two countries to be doubled in 5 years.
”There is no reason why India can’t be our top trading partner. Trade with India is less than with Netherlands, whose population and size less than Mumbai.” he said, noting that of all the goods that America exported to the world, less
than 2 per cent went to India.
He said that India would be the largest supplier of workforce in the future and that the US will compete with it in a healthy way in various areas. “Opportunities for stronger commercial ties to benefit both countries. We want to invest in India’s growth,” he said, adding that every billion dollar invested in India created jobs in the US.
During the roundtable, Obama was accompanied by US
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and other top officials as also
corporate leaders who are part of his entourage.
The deliberations covered areas like electric cars, clean
transport, solar power, drinking water and recent discoveries
in the pharmaceutical sector.
The discussions, which focused on growing trade and
investment, were attended by Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and
managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra Group, Ajay Piramal
of Pirmal, Honeywell`s David Cote who co-chairs the India-US CEO Forum with Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, PepsiCo chairperson Indra Nooyi, Boeing Co`s Jim McNerney and General Electric Co`s Jeffrey Immelt.
Also present at the meeting were 15 young entrepreneurs
who are spreading initiatives in job creation and improvement
in delivery of basic services -- healthcare, education, clean
water, power, financial services -- through market-based
strategies that benefit low-income communities.