Shri Anand Sharma Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister of India along with Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission led the Government of India delegation to the India-U.S. CEO Forum meeting in Washington D.C. on September 22, 2011. The Forum comprises top CEOs from both sides and is co-chaired by Ratan Tata on the Indian side and David M. Cote, CEO of Honeywell Corporation of the USA. Minister Sharma and the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Ron Kirk chaired the session on Review of CEO/Government collaborative projects in different areas including energy efficient buildings, water, agriculture, health care/diabetes; Strategic, high tech and defence trade; and facilitating business travel and totalization agreement . US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Deputy National Security Advisor Mr. Michael Froman led the US Government delegation.
Minister Sharma underscored the importance of free movement of professionals between the two countries. He specifically pointed to serious problems being faced by the Indian IT industry in obtaining H1B and L1 visas and sought its early redressal. He drew attention to the estimates by the Indian industry that the uptake of H1B visa this year has been less than half of annual prescribed limit, and the rejection rates have gone up. He also elaborated on the need and importance of the early signing of the India-U.S. Totalization Agreement. He said that India has signed totalization agreements with several European countries, whose social security systems are different from the Indian system, and from the U.S. system. The United States has also has signed bilateral social security agreements with the same European countries. As such, the differing systems of social security should not be an impediment in signing of the India-U.S. Totalization Agreement.
Minister Sharma acknowledged the important role played by the CEO Forum in policy advocacy that has resulted in tangible policy changes on both sides. He informed the Forum about the positive feedback he had received in his interaction with CEOs in Chicago and Dallas before the CEO Forum meeting. There is a perceptible change in the paradigm for interaction between India and the US from Buy-Sell to a long-term investment in the strategic partnership. He spoke about the changes made in FDI policy in India over the last year including allowing FDI in Limited Liability Partnership and removal of the condition of clearance from a previous Joint Venture partner if an investing firm proposes to enter into a fresh Joint Venture partnership with a new partner in the same sector. He also informed the Forum about the consolidation and simplification of FDI policy in India. He assured the CEOs about India™s continued determination to keep improving the business and investment environment in the country aimed at meeting government™s liberal economic reform agenda.
Shri Sharma said that India and the United States are moving forward with negotiations on the Bilateral Investment Treaty and two rounds of technical negotiations are scheduled to be held before the next round of Ministerial Trade Policy Forum.
Minister Sharma outlined the key elements of the National Manufacturing Policy, which strives to create an improved business environment through greater emphasis on self-regulation, innovation, and simplification. He invited the US investors for establishment of National Investment and Manufacturing Zones, conceived as Integrated Greenfield Mega Industrial town ships and urged the CEO Forum to suggest global best practices for these new town ships.
CITM assessed that in the current situations of global economic uncertainty, the issues of food and energy security have returned and resort to protectionist tendencies could delay the recovery and would be counter-productive.
The deliberations of the CEO Forum identified the areas of Clean Energy; Technology, Health, Agriculture, and Education; Trade, Security and Aviation; Trade and Agriculture; Energy efficient buildings project for expansion and deepening of business-to-business ties.