India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD)

Statement of Commerce & Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman at the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD)

Mr. John Kerry, Secretary of State, United States of America
My colleague Ms. Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs
Ms. Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, United States of America
Mr Dave Cote, US co-chair of the CEO Forum,
Mr. Cyrus Mistry, The Indian co-chair of the CEO Forum
Ms. Rita Teaotia, Secretary to Govt. of India, Department of Commerce,
Ladies & Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to host the US delegation for the 2nd Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in New Delhi.  In an otherwise sluggish scenario for the global trade, the trade between India and US has gathered strength and the bilateral trade of more than $105 billion is a testimony to this fact.  We all know that this figure is much below the potential, as the trade complementarity between the two large democracies is very high.  It has been the endeavor of both the countries to use the institutional dialogues like Trade Policy Forum and Strategic and Commercial Dialogue to address the issuesbeing faced by the trade and to look at broader economic policy initiatives and I must mention that such engagements have been highly productive from the point of view of both the countries. These mechanisms have provided appropriate platforms for sustained interaction between public and private sector to work together to identify newer areas of cooperation and to work around challenges and impediments to smoothen the flow of the relationship.  

2.         Our leaders have agreed to an ambitious target of taking the bilateral trade to $500 billion and this would require both the sides to work in close cooperation and resolve impediments to trade. I would like to assure you that we remain strongly committed to make India a better place to do business and to progressively liberalize our economy to facilitate greater investment. 

3.         As part of our autonomous liberalization exercise, we have made a number of changes in our FDI policy to bring more activities under the automatic route and easing conditionality for foreign investment.  New sectors like defense, railways etc. have been opened to foreign investments.  Reforms undertaken in the recent months have shown positive results and FDI inflows into India have increased at a time when globally, there is decline in the investment flows. Total FDI inflow into India which was at US$ 36 billion during 2013-14 increased to US$ 44.2 billion in 2014-15 and further increased as during the year 2015-16, India received US$ 55.4 billion as FDI.  FDI from USA has also shown a positive growth trend from US $ 804 million in 2013-14 to US$ 4190 million in 2015-16.

4.         Our persistent efforts towards simplification of the tax regime have started showing impact and the passage of GST Bill is expected to provide the required boost for a simplified indirect tax regime.  The bipartisan support for this initiative augurs well for the Indian economy. 

5.         As part of our ease of doing business initiative, we have taken a number of strong steps which have resulted inraising India’s rank a notch higher in the World Bank Doing Business Report.  The e-Biz portal has helped in providing a one stop shop for the investors to apply for different services.  The integration of the State Governments on this portal has further strengthened and expanded the number of services offered through this platform.  Our initiative in bringing about the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is expected to overhaul the existing framework for dealing with insolvency of corporates, individuals, partnerships and other entities.  Our decision to open commercial courts is intended not only for speedy disposal of commercial disputes but also to reinforce investors’ perception of India as a preferred investment destination. As part of our ease of doing business initiative, the Customs authorities have introduced Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) which allows the importers/exporters to file a common declaration on the Customs’ ICEGATE portal.  Our initiative in e-trade has resulted in slashing the documentation requirement for exporters and importers.

6.         I am pleased to note that there was significant progress on the recommendation of the CEO Forum as well asunder our four work streams namely, (a) Standards (b) Ease of doing business (c) Innovation and Entrepreneurship and (d) Infrastructure and Smart cities.  In the last one year, we have had interactions during the Reverse Trade Mission visit from the United States; and collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and US Treasury relating to floating of municipal bonds to generate additional resources.
• The envisaged goals such as exchange of information and best practices on cross- border trade, reforms in commercial law have provided positive inputs to facilitating ease of doing business. There has been significant progress in the ‘Trading Across Borders’ parameter.  There has been a lot of interaction between the teams to understand and adopt best practices relating to ease of doing business and we look forward to more robust engagement in 2017.
• Under the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Work Stream it was agreed to share best practices in promoting a culture of innovation and creation of sister innovation hubs. In pursuit of our Govt’s policy of minimum government and maximum governance, there has been a conscious effort towards making India a global hub for innovation, design and development. The Start Up India and Digital India initiatives are expected to provide the platform for entrepreneursto pursue their business ideas in a conducive environment. It is worthwhile to mention that India jumped from a rank of 81 in 2015 to 66 in 2016 as per the recent Global Innovation Index report. Global collaboration is one of the most important enablers in transforming conventional hubs into innovation hubs and India-US collaboration in strengthening innovation clusters for mutual benefits is a step in the right direction. Both sides should identify and pick up some high-growth potential hubs in the two countries and facilitate partnerships in other areas of technology, design, etc. The launch of the India US Innovation Forum in New Delhi yesterday was a good beginning and I am confident that exchange of ideas and best practices on an ongoing basis would help entrepreneurs of the two countries.
• On the standards front, there has been substantial bilateral engagement and we expect this engagement to be strengthened further. CII is progressing with the development of the Standards portal in collaboration with ANSI and we expect to launch the first version in September 2016.  The engagement between National Physical Laboratory on the Indian side and NIST on the US side has seen some tangible developments and we are looking forward to a more robust engagement in 2017.

7.   In addition to our bilateral engagement, we are working closely with the US and our other key stakeholders in important international foras including the WTO and International Financial Institutions like WB and IMF and the UN Security Council for institutional reforms and unfinished agendas. We are negotiating some important regional and mega regional free trade agreements with our partners like the RCEP and India-EUBTIA. 
8.  Some of our stakeholders have raised concerns regarding measures which have the potential to act as barriers to the movement of natural persons and professionals.  The concerns of our Government in this regard have been conveyed in the past, and we could hope that specific measures like these, having potential to adversely impact our trade, are avoided.       
9.  We have tremendous optimism regarding the promise and growing realization of our potential for trade and investment. Ladies and gentlemen, the onus is squarely on all of us to work together to strengthen the partnership between India and the USA as this partnership will have a significant role in shaping the new global trade.  I look forward to continue the momentum of our bilateral engagement between the Governments and the business on both sides for ensuring positive and balanced outcome of this engagement.
            With this I wish to thank each one of you for being present this afternoon.


Statement of the Commerce &Industry Minister at the Joint Press Briefing

We had a fruitful and productive meeting at the 2ndStrategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) meeting which was held today.Both the sides appreciated the intense engagement between India and the United States under various work streams and various economic initiatives under the S&CD mechanism. It was assessed that ties between the United States and India have never been stronger – as reflected by unprecedented commercial cooperation, high levels of bilateral trade and highest ever FDI inflows to India in 2015-16, especially from the US.

In the morning, Secretary Pritzker and I held discussions with the US and Indian CEOs and took into account their extremely valuable suggestions on economic development initiatives. I thank the US CEO Forum co-chair Mr. Dave Cote and Indian CEO Forum co-chair Mr Cyrus Mistry for successfully articulating major concerns and recommendations of the CEOs on both sides, which will form an important input for our ongoing work under the S&CD. A number of recommendations made during the previous two editions have already been acted upon. Based on the CEO forum recommendations we have agreed to take a focussed intervention in the following areas:

(a) We have launched a transparent Government e-market place (GeM), developed by DGS&D. We have agreed to look at best practices exchange with GSA, Advantage which deals with Government procurement in the US.

(b) We will work on best practices on procurement models and will look at collaboration between the Department of Expenditure and USTDA.

(a) Taking forward innovation and entrepreneurship work stream, we have agreed to focus our attention on Small & Medium scale enterprises. We would be looking at creating a platform for sharing of best practices and technology as also address issues of finance and market access for SMEs and thus promote their integration into global value chains.

(b) We have agreed on a programme called “Silicon Valley comes to India’ which will have experts from USA coming to India to interact with start ups and provide the required momentum to Indian entrepreneurial eco-system.

Under the Commercial track of the Strategic & Commercial Dialogue, Secretary Pritzker and I had extensive discussions on bilateral economic initiatives and reviewed the progress made since the last S&CD under the four work streams relating to infrastructure collaboration and smart cities, ease of doing business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and standards. Both sides welcomed the addition of Travel and Tourism as a new work stream for future collaboration.

We took note of the progress in infrastructure and smart cities collaboration such as the Smart Cities Business Development Mission to India, Reverse Trade Mission to USA by the Andhra officials. It was agreed that the USTDA will collaborate with the Andhra Pradesh Government for facilitating Integrated Master Plan Development. USTDA collaboration with Ajmer and Allahabad to facilitate their proposal for the Smart City challenge stage would continue. The collaboration initiated for municipal bond with Pune would also continue.

We were happy to share that reforms in commercial law such as the bankruptcy code and policies such as Make in India have yielded remarkable benefits facilitating ease of doing business in India.

The off-shoots of our constant focus on innovation are there for all to see - India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index has shot up 15 places this year. India and the USA have agreed to co-host the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, which will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, educators, government officials and business representatives from around the world, creating new opportunities for investments, partnerships and collaborations. We have signed a GES Statement of Intent for this event. We have decided to work together to see how US companies and investment bodies tap the opportunity of India’s infrastructure projects through mechanisms like the “National Infrastructure and Investment Fund”. Both sides will also facilitate collaboration in research in health sector, specifically focusing on non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular ailments, diabetics and cancer.

We welcome the exchange of best practices in the area of standards and outcomes of the Roundtable organized by the CII in association with standards regulators of both the countries. We discussed the NPL and NIST collaboration which would look at both developments of reference material production and collaboration on physical, mechanical, electronic standards. A technical delegation on standards to US is also proposed which will engage with NIST on reference material production, conformity assessment and standards. BIS will also engage with NIST on TBT Enquiry point and sector specific guides. We agreed to encourage the CII-ANSI partnership for development of standards portal and other initiatives as per the MoU signed during last S&CD.

We agreed to make a new addition to existing work streams under the S&CD on partnership in the Travel and Tourism sector. Both sides recognize the huge potential for engagement in advancing bilateral trade in travel and tourism services and it was agreed to observe 2017 as the Travel and Tourism Partnership Year. Given the increased tourist movement between both the countries, the cooperation in the areas of best practices in tourism administration and marketing, public-private partnerships, diversification of travel and tourism expertise, niche markets, and promotional activities are likely to benefit both the countries.

Both countries discussed their priorities for economic development and the policies initiated to achieve these objectives and agreed to continue their engagement for fulfilling the potential for bilateral trade between the two largest democracies in the world. 

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