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I am delighted to take over as the President of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce at a time when it is celebrating its golden jubilee. Let me take this opportunity to give tributes to its Founding Members, Past Presidents at National, Regional and Chapter levels and all those who worked tirelessly for nurturing this august body to the pre-eminent position it occupies at present.
The Indo-US economic partnership is at an exciting phase. Never before in the history of our two democracies- the oldest and largest –has the range and scope of engagement peaked to the level as it is now. We have to build and consolidate on this relationship to scale to higher orbits. May I assure you that I shall be endeavoring to synergize our shared development agenda to embellish the business to business and government interfaces to move up in the value chain!
Our bilateral economic relationship should be measured using three parameters viz. volume of trade transacted, range of investments, and pace in which the technology is transferred. In terms of bilateral trade, the target set by the IACC is to peak it to the level of US$ 500 billion by 2022. The present level of trade is in the vicinity of US$116 billion. But some of the recent developments, thanks to the initiatives taken both at the government and private sector in two countries, have given us a ray of hope of reaching that figure in time. The recent import of crude oil from the US, for the first time in the history of India, increase in the volume of imports in defense and aerospace sectors, flow of tourists to each other’s country, cooperation in the healthcare sector and increased number of Indian students seeking admissions in the US universities etc. are indicators that overall, gross trade volumes are picking up.
From the Indian perspective, newer paradigms have to be evolved to enhance our trade with the US. It is quite likely that the volume of India’s exports to the US in the software sector may dip on account of the increased degree of automation and dependence on the artificial intelligence, this has rendered a very number of manpower redundant and the need therefore arises to re-skill manpower banks so that they are not rendered redundant. It is imperative that we have to re-focus on our IT capabilities to be relevant to the US requirements. IACC will be spreading this message as also championing the need for augmenting our tourism and hospitality facilities to attract more and more US tourists into the country. Also, we have to impress upon the authorities to allow US universities to set up their off-site campus in India, which can help many developing countries to send their students to India on account of the relatively cheaper fee and cost of living.
A related challenge is the earliest conclusion of the Totalization Agreement between the two countries to address the issue of Indian professionals and others paying social security tax both in India and the US. The huge resources-amounting to billions of dollars- remain with the US exchequer if the professionals do not stay there for 10 years. Stricter visa regime is also affecting the movement of Indian professionals.
Segments like defense, aerospace, manufacturing, airport modernization, creating capacities in the railway locomotive sector etc. are getting increased attention from the US investors. There are reports that a few of the US corporations are eyeing airport modernization and investment in the real estate and hospitality sectors. Their investments in India in these sectors, taking advantage of the various projects that India has undertaken, such as Make in India, Digital India, Smart city project, renewable energy, urban rejuvenation, introduction of trains, smart mobility etc. will be hugely beneficial to India in unbundling the development potentials and importantly, creating gainful employment. IACC delegations, which visited US in the recent past had several rounds of discussions with US industry leaders and investors in this regard. Let me assure you that we will continue with these tasks in the future as well.
A related segment is technology transfer. The present trend of US corporations relocating their R&D outfits to India is a win –win situation. The huge reservoir of India’s technical manpower can combine with US investments in creating newer paradigms in sectors like discovery of new molecules, mobile telephony, telecom, genetic engineering, medical devices, bio technology, software etc.
We are putting together an ambitious agenda for celebrating our fifty years of existence in a grand scale. Up in the order of the programs are big ticket events across the country, frequent interfaces with businesses in the US, increased dialogue with stakeholders including administrations of both countries, funding agencies in both countries and a lot more.
To make these efforts possible and conforming to a higher degree of quality and content, I need the unstinted support of all of you. Let us work together for chasing the new vision and the shared agenda to take our organization to loftier heights.
Thank you !
Mr. Vasant Subramanyan