State of the Forum Address by John Chambers, Chairman, USISPF:
In his opening remarks, USISPF Chairman John Chambers highlighted the promising future of U.S.-India relations, pointing to the results of strategic bilateral relations over the past few years in job creation and inclusive growth. While acknowledging there are “tough decisions” to be made by both countries, such as the current trade issues, Chambers predicts that the trust that is built in the process and integrated efforts “will result in top-notch economic growth,” especially given PM Modi’s vision and his willingness to work with the U.S. for a win-win innovative future.
The success of bilateral trade, growing 7.5 percent per year on average, will be undermined if we do not see the potential of achieving 10-15% growth per year to take the trade to $250-$300 billion. Achieving the trade potential is important for inclusive job growth across the U.S. and India.
A Conversation with Rick Perry, United States Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy and John Chambers:
Chairman John Chambers held a discussion with Secretary Rick Perry on U.S.-India relations, particularly energy cooperation. Secretary Perry underscored the need for the U.S. and India to work together in energy sector. While the U.S. has a strong base on the supply side, the growing needs of India call for joint innovation in every field related to energy, energy policy, and clean energy.
Panel: The Promise of U.S.-India Ties in the Indo-Pacific Century
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Senior Counselor at The Cohen Group, and Ambassador Kanwal Sibel, Former Indian Foreign Secretary and advisor to the USISPF Board of Directors, spoke about the future of U.S.-India relations in the “Indo-Pacific century,” in a panel moderated by Dr. Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin.
Ambassador Sibal views the relationship between the U.S. and India as heading in the right direction, and likely to have many positive results during PM Modi’s tenure, as “India’s needs are such that the U.S. is in the best position to meet them.” He highlighted that the U.S. is India’s biggest trade partner, and that growing defense relations and “people-to-people contacts” also contribute to a “full spectrum relationship” between the two countries. However, he cautioned against exaggerating the differences on trade issues, or pushing India on its strategic ties with other countries.
Ambassador Burns also noted that the U.S.-India relationship is the fastest growing partnership with any other countries. However, he believes that the differences in trade are quite stark. For better future ties, two countries should manage their trade relations on top of the strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific. He also highlighted the importance of working together to prevent China from becoming a predominant power in the Indo-Pacific.
A Conversation with Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary and USISPF Board Member Ed Monser
In a conversation with Ed Monser, Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that he is hopeful of an increased role and cooperation from the new, stronger government of India that can influence the Indian parliament. He complimented India’s initiative in the competitive market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), facilitating U.S. efforts to reduce trade deficits. He also highlighted the importance of communication channels to align the Make in India objectives and the needs of the U.S. businesses. He suggested the potential consolidation of small entities and farmers to incorporate more efficient and cost-effective techniques. For large businesses, he recommends less protectionist tariffs, less restrictions in labor laws, and policies to support higher FDI inflows.
A Conversation with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and USISPF Board Chairman John Chambers
In a discussion with John Chambers, Nancy Pelosi shared her ideological journey from “kitchen to Congress, housewife to House Speaker”, Congress priorities, and her affection and respect for India.
Speaking on the U.S. business environment, Speaker Pelosi identified entrepreneurship as “the biggest job creator and capital formation instrument” in the U.S. and noted the needs of small business owners, particularly access to capital, a trained workforce, and customers with purchasing power. She also highlighted the success and strategic contributions of the Indo-American community in Silicon Valley entrepreneurship in particular.
She characterized the U.S.-China relationship as “complicated”, noting that the U.S. missed an opportunity 30 years ago to collaborate with the EU on reducing our trade deficit with China – then only $5 billion a year; it is now more than that each week – instead of placing tariffs on the EU. She said that the U.S. has fought hard to have a relationship with China, but this relationship today faces many issues, such as the huge trade deficit, intellectual property theft, the sale of missile technology to rogue countries, diminishing democracy in Hong Kong and Tibet, and a lack of respect for human rights.
Speaker Pelosi noted that the U.S. has much more natural shared values in its relationship with India, and these shared values create an opportunity to lift the value system of the world by creating more markets and educating more people while increasing their purchasing power. In particular, she highlighted the importance of reducing corruption in markets around the world, to enable development by attracting FDI. She also highlighted the importance of technology and public-private partnerships for inclusive growth in both countries.
Panel: India’s Role in the Innovation Ecosystem
Nik Deogun, CEO of the Americas and U.S. Senior Partner at the Brunswick Group, moderated a panel on India’s role in the innovation ecosystem, featuring Rubrick co-founder and CEO Bipul Sinha; SoftBank Investment Advisors managing partner Praveen Akkiraju; Cognizant President of Digital Business Malcolm Frank; and Harvinder Singh, the Divisional Vice President, Asia Pacific, at Abbott Vascular. This panel addressed the challenges and opportunities of innovation in India.
One point highlighted by the speakers was the difference in goals between innovation in Silicon Valley and in India. In Silicon Valley, there is a focus on disrupting technology, while innovation in India focuses on disrupting business models. Mr. Akkiraju identified examples of Indian innovators using digital platforms to increase accessibility to payment and other services.
Mr. Frank identified areas of improvement for the Indian private and public sector to foster innovation: an education system that fosters skills for innovative start-ups, and a legal system, such as U.S. bankruptcy laws, that allows entrepreneurs to take risks and pursue innovative ideas. Mr. Sinha also identified transactional governance as a key concern for India’s innovative future. He highlighted the time lag between understanding the implications of how new technology can be used and developing a regulatory framework to prevent its misuse as a challenge presented by innovation around the world.
In terms of opportunities, Mr. Sinha identified the B2B sector as the “massive next wave” of innovative entrepreneurship in India. Mr. Singh also identified the convergence between medical technology and predictive analytics as a future opportunity for innovation in the medical sector.
Panel: Make in India for the Globe
The “Make in India for the Globe Panel” – featuring Emerson president Mike Train, Group President (Strategy) for Mahindra Group, Anish Shah, and Dr. Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin, and moderated by McLarty Associates President and co-founder Nelson Cunningham – characterized the evolving nature of the relationship between the U.S. and India, and discussed how can the U.S. industry can participate in catalyzing the Make in India Scheme launched by PM Modi.
Some key points brought up in this discussion are that India’s growth and American goods exports to India both increased over the past year, and the $25 billion deficit between India and the U.S. currently exists in both goods and services. U.S. industry has full confidence in Prime Minister Modi and India’s customer base; however, less restrictive regulation, and more supply-base incentives are needed.
Dr. Shah noted that while the Make in America (President Trump’s MAGA manufacturing goal) and Make in India (Prime Minister Modi’s project) initiatives are different, there is an opportunity – and in fact, a need – to synergize both campaigns, since both are focused on the imperative need for free and fair trade.
The speakers noted growth in defense trade, the expansion of global supply chains and the increase in skills, ability and innovation streamlining between the U.S. and India. To continue strengthening the trade relationship, the speakers highlighted the importance of infrastructure development. Dr. Lall also emphasized the importance of initiatives to make sure the workforce has the right skills to meet companies’ needs.
A Conversation with U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Christopher Smith, Senior Vice President, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Cheniere Energy
In a conversation with Christopher Smith, Senator Sullivan expressed his optimism on the U.S.-India ties, viewing this as the beginning of a relationship with immense potential and many areas for cooperation between the two countries. He identified defense, energy, and technology as areas where the U.S.-India relationship is growing and can continue to deepen; he also noted the influential role of the Indian-American community in the U.S.
Senator Sullivan emphasized the need for the U.S. and India to work together to address long-term trade challenges, and then focus on working together to address the challenges posed by China. At this time, he believes there is “probably not enough” focus on the U.S.-India relationship in Congress, but it is heading in the right direction on both the congressional and executive levels, as shown by Secretary Pomeo’s visit to India and the constructive meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi at the G20 summit.
Regarding the energy cooperation, Senator Sullivan identified multiple areas where the two countries can deepen the relationship, such as ocean pollution, waste management, International Energy Agency and oil and gas exports. In addition, he highlights the importance of defense cooperation, as the long-term strategic interests and values of the United States and India are aligning to counter the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific.
A Conversation with the Ambasador Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Ambassador of India to the United States, Embassy of India, Washington, DC and Dow Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Varian Medical Systems
In the fireside chat with Dow Wilson, Ambassador Harshvardhan Shringla focused on the strategic nature of the U.S.-India relationship that is expected to get stronger sustaining in the longer term while finding solutions to issues that are bound to be faced by two democracies.
Speaking about Minister Jaishankar, Amb. Shringla emphasized that his clear vision, experience with the U.S., and his goodwill within and outside India is likely to help strengthen the relationship across the board and with solving issues of concern. Regarding the bilateral relationship, India has displayed willingness to engage – after a hiatus of almost six months because of the country’s general election – in strengthening the relationship through meetings at every level to work out resolution that are mutually beneficial to achieve the potentials.
He noted that India’s priority to become a five trillion-dollar economy in the next five years is supported by PM Modi Government’s strong mandate for pushing legislation to achieve the targeted GDP growth through higher investments and manufacturing growth. He also points to highlights of the budget measures pertaining to the FDI liberalization, such as relaxation in FDI in Insurance, Aviation and single-brand retail, as setting the tone for future engagement.
The two countries have achieved a lot in two-way trade and investment, and the vision of the strategic partnership in the relationship should not go on the regression path. India would like to see significant acceleration in ties; should underscore success stories between the businesses of the two sides, rather than only talk about contentious issues.
A Conversation with Ambassador Jeffrey Gerrish, Deputy United States Trade Representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Industrial Competitiveness and Ambassador Susan Esserman, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson
The discussion between Ambassador Susan Esserman and Ambassador Jeffrey Gerrish focused on the current tensions in the U.S.-India bilateral trade relationship and the strategy going forward.
Amb. Gerrish noted that the U.S. and India bilateral relationship is at a critical stage due to frustration over several policy issues that remain unresolved despite concerted efforts over the last few years, and acknowledged the possibility of additional U.S. trade actions, including a Section 301 investigation, if India moves ahead with policies the U.S. has deemed unacceptable. He stated that USTR Lighthizer is keen for “equitable and reasonable” access to markets in the bilateral relationship and he has conveyed to India’s Commerce Minister, Piyush Goyal, his decision to tackle the broader issues in the relationship with a more “comprehensive approach” and not just issues including the market-access concerns raised in the GSP review.
Other issues Amb. Gerrish mentioned include agricultural and non-agricultural products, digital trade, services and intellectual property protection and enforcement, and India’s higher applied MFN tariffs than the WTO-bound rates. He characterized India’s RBI data localization policy for e-payments as “troubling”; the U.S. side is advocating for termination of these data localization provisions because the free flow of data is beneficial to both our economies.
The Indian government has indicated a desire to consult on these policies; the U.S. is still in the early stages of engaging with the new Indian government, but Amb. Gerrish warned that “this is not going to be an open-ended discussion, and time is certainly of the essence at this point.” Quick resolution of market-access issues, including those raised in the GSP review, would be “confidence-building measures.” The strategic partnership between the U.S. and India presents ample opportunities to grow the bilateral relationship; however, it is important to translate the Indian government’s openness and willingness into reality.
A Conversation with Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President of the United States and Ajay Banga, President and CEO, Mastercard
In a conversation with Ajay Banga, Jared Kushner focused on two primary topics: the current mandate of the Trump Administration and the nature and future of the US-India strategic relationship. Their discussion touched on a wide array the Trump administration’s goals, including corporate tax reforms, the flow of assets into the U.S. as part of President Trump’s ‘Make in U.S.’ agenda, and job creation, education development, immigration policies, bipartisan cooperation and geo-political priorities across the Middle East and North America.
Mr. Kushner highlighted the “boundless potential” of the U.S.-India relationship, and the importance of having forums such as USISPF for mediating between governments to improve relationships and bring the private and public sectors closer. Mr. Banga hailed the US-India’s evolving relationship as the “Mahaguthbandhan”, or the “The grand coalition that the world needs that can make a difference to the world”.
Strengthening the U.S.-India Energy Partnership
Dr. Daniel Yergin, the Vice Chairman of HIS Markit, moderated a panel on strengthening the U.S.-India energy partnership featuring Ryan LeGrand, President and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council; Sumant Sinha, the founder, Chairman and CEO of ReNew Power; and Vishal Wanchoo, President and CEO of GE South Asia. Overall, the speakers highlighted the importance of energy to achieving the Modi administration’s new goal for economic growth. At a rate of 8 percent annual economic growth, demand for energy is expected to increase by 4 percent annually.
While coal is expected to remain India’s ‘baseline’ energy source for the near future, demand for natural gas and renewable energy is likely to increase, representing an opportunity to deepen U.S.-India trade ties. The U.S. has a role to play in meeting India’s growing energy demands through exports natural gas and biofuels, such as ethanol, and through investment in renewable energy technologies. Mr. LeGrand highlighted India’s mandate of 20 percent ethanol in blended fuel by 2022 as an opportunity to increase both U.S. exports of ethanol biofuels and its domestic production in India.
Another opportunity highlighted by the speakers is in the area of renewable and clean energy. Mr. Wanchoo identified two challenges to renewable energy in India – technology to integrate renewable energy and ‘last mile connectivity’ – which U.S. investments can help address. The speakers also highlighted the need for coal plants to increase efficiency and reduce emissions, and addressed the challenges and opportunities presented by wind and solar energy in India. Both Mr. Wanchoo and Mr. Sinha, founder chairman and CEO of ReNew Power, highlighted India’s wind manufacturing industry as an area for innovation and investment.