US-India Strategic Partnership Forum
Industry Interactions with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
October 12-16, 2021
USISPF hosted Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for a series of one-on-one interactions and roundtable meetings with investors in Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC. The strong participation was a sign of the ongoing interest in India as a potential investment destination, including for manufacturers seeking to diversify their global supply chains.
Finance Minister Sitharaman took the opportunity to inform U.S. investors about India’s post-pandemic economic rebound and new incentive programs in place to facilitate foreign investment, and to hear from participants about various policy and regulatory challenges still to be addressed in the country. In her remarks, the Minister discussed the ways tech-enabled systems had enabled people to survive during the worst of the pandemic by using digital means to collect direct financial support, conduct government transactions, and receive critical market information. She outlined the budget measures taken to boost the recovery, highlighting reforms in insurance, banking, capital market regulation, and privatization.
Many of the participants spoke of large current investments in India and plans for substantially more, particularly if the government’s privatization and asset monetization plans move forward quickly. Several also said they are looking to incorporate India more fully into their global supply chains. They commended the pace of reform to date and urged the Minister to work with partners to increase regulatory consistency and transparency throughout the economy. Several also expressed concern about productivity losses from data localization and urged the government to consider a safe harbor policy for data with the United States.
Investors agreed India would benefit from measures to deepen its domestic capital markets and reduce the costs of debt and equity financing in the country. Reducing the size of public sector holdings in the financial sector is a critical first step. Other concrete measures include making it easier for foreign investors to register as Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (QFII) in the country and to hedge their currency risks. They noted additional incentives and support for public private partnerships would support the government’s ambitious infrastructure investment goals.
On the issue of climate, several participants expressed eagerness to help finance India’s transition to a green economy, while the Minister noted India’s deep commitment to the issue, it being one of only a handful of countries to have met its climate goals.
All participants agreed the U.S.-India financial partnership is strong and will benefit from further tangible successes. They remain committed to working together on these issues to support India’s economic recovery and boost economic growth, jobs, and investment.