India and the US sought to give new momentum to their business relations on Monday, Republic Day, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama displaying their personal chemistry as they sought to iron out thorny issues, promised to cut red tape and laid thrust on concrete outcomes.
Attending two back-to-back business events on the second day of the Obama visit, both talked about the untapped potential of their relationship. While the first day Sunday saw the two countries resolve a nearly six-year-old impasse over their nuclear deal, Monday saw them taking steps for five-fold increase in bilateral trade over the next few years.
Their chemistry was evident during both the meetings where both lauded each other’s initiatives and promised to address issues of concern.
In his address to the India-US CEO Forum, Obama talked about concerns of the US business including “barriers” and their seeking a “consistent” business policy environment that protects intellectual property rights.
He also mentioned the scale of US business with China.
Obama told the Indo-US Business summit that India accounts for only two percent of US imports and its exports to the country were just over one percent of its total exports. While $100 billion bilateral trade between the two countries was of great importance, the US trade with China was $560 billion, he said.
“The kind of potential (which) might unleash. We got to do that,” Obama told the gathering that included business leaders and several ministers of National Democratic Alliance government.
He said Modi agreed with him on the need to realise the untapped potential between the two countries.
Modi said his govenment was working towards ease in business and the immediate target is to bring India among the top 50 from the rear ranks.
Obama said his visit to India was rich in symbolism but also in substance and noted that in an interconnected world, the two were “inextricably linked”.
“There is natural convergence between our two countries,” he said.
Talking about scope of US investment in railways and road and port infrastructure, smart cities, solar energy and possibly in multi-brand retail, he also laid emphasis on inclusive development, noting “growth can’t just be measured by GDP. It has to make people’ lives better in a tangible way”.
In his address at the CEOs meeting, Obama said that such interactions were “extraodinarily useful in identifying problems and generating practical solutions”.
Referring to IPR issues, he said that the US operates at higher end of global value chain and noted that “absence of effective intellectual property protection” was also standing in the way of development of India’s software industry.
Referring to Indian industry’s concerns over immigration issues, he said that the US wanted to attract more highly skilled workers and such a move will need support of the legislature.
Modi in his remarks said that his office will monitor big projects involving large investment.
At the India-US Business summit, Modi said that investors will find the environment that is not only open, but also welcoming.