Observing that India and the United States have been ambitious on the strategic and technology front, a diplomat-turned-corporate executive has asserted that now is the time for the two nations to be more ambitious in the area of trade and investment as well.
“I take great comfort in the fact that the US and India are now not only Quad partners, they are also Indo-Pacific Economic Framework partners. I think both the governments ought to be ambitious about addressing investment and trade issues in order to have a greater opening up in both directions,” Atul Keshap, president, US India Business Council (USIBC) told PTI in an interview.
“If both the governments take decisions to open up further to create a really good framework for trade and investment, you will hit that USD 500 billion target (of India-US annual bilateral trade). It requires the governments to be ambitious.
“They have been very ambitious on the strategic and the technological fronts. Now is the time to be ambitious on the trade and investment front,” Keshap, who had served as the Charge’ d affaires of the US mission to India, said.
Responding to questions, Keshap said the relationship between the two countries has been on an upward trajectory.
“When you think about all of the stresses and tensions in world affairs, there is a war raging in Europe, we have had inflation, energy shocks, food price shocks; the US and India are doing really well in terms of our increasing strategic convergence, our economic and technological convergence, and of course our thriving people-to-people relationship,” he said.
Business confidence and investor confidence, both by Indian companies looking at the United States and American companies looking at India, is very strong, Keshap said.
“If you look at the amount of high-tech innovation being done by our two innovation societies, it is clear that the US and India are embarked upon a course that will get us to USD 500 billion (per annum in bilateral trade)… I agree entirely with what then vice president Joe Biden said. I think our numbers are going up,” he said when asked about the ambitious target of USD 500 billion in bilateral trade set up by US President Biden when he travelled to India as vice president.
“But we have had a pandemic that has delayed us by two or three years. The focus now is to really work on the semiconductor issues, on pharmaceuticals and life sciences, and work on major investments that are pending in both directions. There are things that are for instance, energy where there is a lot of pent-up possibility where I think we could really see our numbers go up very rapidly,” he said.
Observing that India has the largest available scalable human talent on earth, Keshap said a lot of Indian and American companies recognise the great value of that talent pool.
“For IT workers, certainly there have been some layoffs in the tech sector, and there might be more to come. I think what is important is to be able to have these folks, adjust from one job to another in a way that allows them to offer their talents to these companies and also ensures that our two great democracies stay on top in the war for talent all around the world,” he said.
Responding to a question on the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, he praised the efforts of the Biden administration in addressing the challenge in such a short span of time.
“The US has a system that works. It has a system that has worked very well for many decades, and it continues to work very well. Look at the swift actions on Friday and through the weekend to ensure confidence in the system,” he said.
Keshap also said that there is a lot more opportunity to expand the relationship in new sectors like energy, manufacturing, semiconductors, and in the ecosystem around semiconductors in so many other areas.
“I think having things like the strategic trade dialogue will help both the sides address any lingering kind of slowdown in the system that inhibits the movement of business volumes to even greater heights. There is ample opportunity for both governments to really examine pending proposals, deals, MoUs between companies and to try to make those happen and to really make them reality, in areas such as defense,” he added.
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