India woos US investors with 'growth-oriented level playing field'

Washington, July 11 (IANS) As India tries hard to revive its flagging economy and shore up a rupee in free fall, senior cabinet ministers are wooing American investors with a clear message: India is growth oriented and offers a level playing field.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma have been networking with government and corporate leaders as also lawmakers, who have of late expressed concerns about India's allegedly restrictive policies, for the last couple of days.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia would join them Thursday as the trio addresses US corporate leaders' concerns about the business climate in India at the 38th anniversary leadership summit of the US-India Business Council (USIBC), representing over 350 US companies doing business with India.

Their theme song: India hasn't lost it, it is committed to make the country into a manufacturing hub for the world and is taking a series of steps to ensure a transparent, fair and non-discriminatory investment environment for foreign investors.

Chidambaram made the pitch for US investment in India in meetings here Wednesday with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus and top CEOs of a number of American companies, including Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC).

While some concerns have been expressed about the current business environment in India, the policies adopted by the India are pro-growth and compliant with the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, he told his interlocutors.

Chidambaram asked US companies to set up local manufacturing bases in India, saying "it is in the mutual interest of both countries for India to become a large manufacturing economy".

Meanwhile making a similar pitch in New York Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma asked US corporates to look at India as a long term business and investment opportunity saying India is committed to make itself the manufacturing hub of the world.

In a conversation hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the US India Business Council (USIBC) Wednesday, he outlined various Indian government policies to invigorate manufacturing and to create the right conditions for inviting investments into the country, according to a CII media release.

While acknowledging that 2012 was a difficult economic year for India, Sharma pointed to the country's strong fundamentals such as thriving domestic demand, a high national investment rate (35 percent) and a high savings rate (31 percent) as factors that will continue to drive economic growth.

Sharma pointed to strong two-way investment flows, with US FDI in India pegged at $32 billion and Indian investments into the US projected to stand at $13 billion.

At the same time, Sharna stressed that partnership is a two-way process and that the imperative of free movement of skilled professionals is an aspect that needs to be recognized and respected.

To highlight the myriad business opportunities open to US and Indian companies, a high powered CII CEOs delegation led by Ajay Shriram, president-designate, CII & senior managing director and chairman, DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd is accompanying Sharma.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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