US-India CEOs asked to focus on FDI, defence trade

Washington, July 12 (IANS) A top US official Friday asked Indian and US business leaders to focus on four key areas of FDI, defence trade, nuclear power and people as they work out ways to boost India-US business relationship.

"The full participation of the private sector is indispensible to a sustainable long-term partnership," Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns said welcoming participants to a meeting of the US-India CEO Forum at the State Department.

The meeting is led by India's Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, US Deputy National Security Advisor Caroline Atkinson, and US Trade Representative Michael Froman, along with CEO co-chairs Ratan Tata and David Cote of Honeywell

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and Under Secretary for Economics, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats are also participating in addition to the American and Indian CEOs.

"That's why this Forum is so important," Burns said suggesting "a number of specific areas where I believe we can achieve near-term progress and deliver a solid return on the investment in our relationship."

"First, we ought to lower barriers for foreign direct investment," Burns said suggesting "reforms in FDI and concluding the bilateral investment treaty will be instrumental in taking innovation, economic growth, and job creation to a new level in both our countries".

"Second, we need to continue transforming our defense trade relationship. Third, we must deliver on the promise of the civil-nuclear agreement," he said as "this will be a visible manifestation of our strategic partnership."

"Finally, we must keep our countries open to the fundamental driver of this partnership - our people," he said noting "from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, and Cambridge to Washington, Indian Americans and Indian citizens are making a profound impact here".

Describing "the transformed relations between India and the United States as one of the most significant developments in global politics," he said: "We have worked too hard and come too far to lose that momentum now."

Launched in July 2005, the forum comprising 10 selected CEOs from both countries is mandated to develop a road map for increased partnership and cooperation between the two countries at a business level.

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

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