U.S.-India Business Council and Ministry of Finance to host seminar on accelerating PM Modi’s vision of a cashless India

Mar 27, 2017 0

New Delhi- The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, Government of India will host the first symposium on “Accelerating Digital Payments and Deepening Financial Inclusion” on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in New Delhi.

The symposium brings together a diverse set of stakeholders, including government, private and public industry such as banks, payment service providers, product providers, and aggregators, and end users, along with industry associations, think tanks and civil society to explore how best to leverage the momentum of Prime Minister Modi’s “Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana” initiative.

Participants will discuss the challenges in digital payments ecosystem and contribute to potential solutions with their unique perspectives and capabilities. The symposium will also examine expanding the reach and effectiveness of financial inclusion initiatives, and the tools necessary to ensure that all of India’s citizens participate in India’s digital financial future.

The symposium will begin with a keynote address by Smt. Anjuly Chib Duggal, Secretary, Department of Financial Services and special remarks by Dr. Saurabh Garg, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance. Ms. Kaku Nakhate, Country Head, Bank of America, and Mr. Anupam Pahuja, Managing Director & CEO, PayPal India will provide remarks on behalf of the industry.

The closing plenary will comprise of a fireside chat between Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog; Ms. Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, MeitY; Mr. Richard Nash, Head- Global Government Affairs, PayPal; and Mr. Sudipto Mundle, Emeritus Professor and Member of the Board of Governors, National Institute of Public Finance & Policy.

Mukesh Aghi

Speaking about the event, Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President, USIBC, said, “With the Government’s strong commitment towards making India a cashless society, it is imperative that we deliberate on the challenges to achieving a digitally driven economy. Industry stands ready to create innovative solutions to build a digital infrastructure that supports efforts underway for maximum financial inclusion.”

Some of the other eminent speakers that will be attending the event include Dr. Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, MeitY; Mr. Gaurav Batra, Group Head, South Asia, Mastercard; Mr. Sriraman Jagannathan, Vice President – Payments, Amazon India; Mr. Manoj Adlakha, CEO-India, American Express; Ms. Debopama Sen, Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citibank India; Mr. Bob Varnadoe, Global Chief Information Security Officer, NCR Corporation; Mr. Peeyush Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat; Mr. Iain Allison, Head of APAC and Europe Cross Border Remittances, PayPal; Mr. Shashi Arora, Managing Director & CEO, Airtel Payments Bank; Mr. Ashwin Mehta, Chief General Manager (Rural Banking), State Bank of India and; Mr. Ritesh Pai, Senior President & Country Head, Digital Banking, Yes Bank.

Formed in 1975 at the request of the U.S. and Indian governments, the U.S.-India Business Council is the premier business advocacy organization, comprised of 400 top-tier U.S. and Indian companies advancing U.S.-India commercial ties. USIBC is the largest bilateral trade association in the United States, with liaison presence in New York, Silicon Valley, and New Delhi.

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US Senators push Trump on defense deals, production of F-16s in India

Mar 25, 2017 0

Washington– Two senators have written letters to the Trump administration to push for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to India as well as to approve a drone sale to the country, a media report said.

Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner sent letters this week to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis, urging them to sign off on the F-16 production line in India and approve the export of the Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft, a non-lethal maritime surveillance platform, the Hill online reported on Friday.

The pair — co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus — said that both sales would bolster the US-India military relationship.

John Cornyn

India has been looking to buy new fighter aircraft since 2007 and in October relaunched a competition with the F-16 and the Saab Gripen (multi-role fighter aircraft) as the two contenders, said the report.

US aerospace company Lockheed Martin has since pledged to open a production line in India for the F-16s, but the plan was yet to be approved by the new administration.

Both senators urged Mattis and Tillerson “to weigh in forcefully with the White House on the strategic significance of the deal”, arguing the F-16 production line solely relies on international buys, with the last aircraft made for the US in 1999.

Mark Warner

“Keeping the F-16 in production will help sustain a fleet of over 1,000 aircraft currently in the Air Force and help preserve thousands of American jobs. It will help maintain 800 high value design and engineering jobs in the US, and extend the only scalable single engine 4th generation fighter aircraft as a significant security cooperation tool for the US,” wrote Cornyn and Warner.

The two senators also pushed for the sale of the Guardian aircraft to India in a separate letter.

India requested the Guardian in June, a request that has been pending with the US government since, reported the newspaper.

“The Guardian is exclusively manufactured in the US, and a potential sale to India is estimated to be valued at over $2 billion across the life of the programme,” the second letter stated. (IANS)

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U.S.-India Business Council Convenes Conference on Innovation Driven Expansion of Healthcare Access in India

Mar 16, 2017 0

New Delhi – The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs, and Invest India convened policymakers, global experts, industry leaders, and relevant stakeholders this week in New Delhi for a conference entitled, “The 2nd Annual Conference on Innovation Driven Expansion of Healthcare Access in India”.

“India has proven to be a leader in the global life sciences space,” said Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President of USIBC. “If the barriers to increasing R&D and innovation are removed, India has the potential to rank up even higher in the areas of IPR, disease prevention, and drug and medical device manufacturing.”

Experts such as Frank Lichtenberg from Columbia University and Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan from Princeton University presented their findings at this event, which aimed to provide a substantive framework for a candid and constructive interaction between policy makers, industry leaders, global experts and other stakeholders.

“Access begins with the awareness of need, ability to obtain medical advice, a prescription and finally medicines required for treatment. Therefore, innovation to enhance access is not just about innovative products or pricing but also innovative ways to strengthen each step of this access chain. This also includes innovative approach to making policies that can improve access. On pricing of medicines, I believe that it is time for us to evolve from the rudimentary ‘one price for all’ concepts of price controls to more sophisticated differential pricing and targeted benefits model,”  said  S. Sridhar, Country Manager, Pfizer India.

Other prominent speakers such as Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, C.K. Mishra, Secretary of Health, and Rajiv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, DIPP spoke about the importance of India’s potential and status as a major healthcare power.

India is a global leader in the life sciences sector, and opportunity abounds for India to move up the value chain and become the global destination for research, drug, and medical device development. The conference examined various facets of the India’s healthcare system. This includes areas ranging from intellectual property, to using Public Private Partnerships to reduce cost and expand access, challenges with immunization and promoting innovation in healthcare.

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First Ministerial-Level Meeting Between India and New US Administration Held in Washington

Mar 9, 2017 0

Washington, DC–Indian Minister of State of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan met the newly appointed US Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Washington on Wednesday. This was the first Minister level interaction between India and US under the new administration.

Ministers Pradhan and Secretary Perry discussed energy cooperation between India and the US, India’s growing energy needs and the export of LNG to India from early 2018. Indian investment in LNG and Shale sector in the US were also discussed.

Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan

Pradhan’s visit was part of his three-city visit during which he also travelled to Boston and Houston. He attended the CERA Week in Houston where he announced the new bidding round in India that will start from July 2017. The Minister highlighted the fact that India is a prosperous market under strong leadership of Prime Minister  Narendra Modi and welcomed investment in oil sector in India.

On the margins of CERA Week, the Minister met his counterpart Ministers from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Canada and CEO of ADNOC (State company of UAE). He also met several industry leaders and experts like Bob Dudley (CEO,BP) and Fatih Birol (Executive Director,IEA). He also met Governor of Texas Mr Greg Abbott.

During his visit to Boston, Shri Pradhan addressed students and faculty of three leading academic institutions, namely MIT, Harvard Kennedy School and Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. In MIT, he had a meeting with Prof Ernest Muniz, former US Energy Secretary.

Pradhan also met Indian community at both Boston and Houston including with Scientists of Indian origin. ONGC and Oil India have already started engaging Indian origin oil scientists and during this visit Oil India signed a MoU with Houston University to work on CO2 injection technology to enhance production in Assam.

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Trump’s merit-based immigration proposal could benefit Indians

Mar 2, 2017 0

By Arul Louis

New York — US President Donald Trump’s proposal for a merit-based immigration system has the potential to benefit Indians, a large number of whom have high levels of education and skills.

But this will ultimately depend on the finer details of how the proposal is implemented.

In his State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Trump said the US should give out green cards using a merit-based system similar to those of Canada and Australia in place of its current “outdated” programme.

“Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system,” he said.

“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”

By not following such a system, he said the US was “straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.

“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class,” he said.

Trump did not make any mention of those working in the US on temporary professional work visas known as H-1B.

In earlier speeches, he had said that he would root out abuses in that visa category and restrict them if they were to throw Americans out of work.

Those who qualify for H1-B visas under more stringent conditions either imposed by the Trump Administration or by a bill introduced jointly by a Republican and a Democratic in Congress would likely have a leg up in the merit system.

Any drastic reform of the immigration process will be a difficult undertaking for Trump.

Trump did not spell out how the merit-based system would work.

On the face of it, Indians would make a good fit for a merit-based system going by the community’s current profile.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Indians in the US are college graduates.

The US Census Bureau reported that in 2013, the median household income for Indian families was over $100,000.

But there are other factors such as whether the current national quotas or limits on people from any country who could be admitted in a year are retained could ultimately determine how it plays out for Indians.

President Donald Trump

The proposal will have to clear many hurdles.

First of all, it will run into opposition mainly from the Democratic Party which would argue that it would not help the poor and the unskilled immigrate to the US and discriminate against immigrants from Latin American countries whom the party counts as a key part of its base.

A way out for Trump might be to barter the merit-based reform for allowing some illegal immigrants to stay on in the country.

In Canada, applicants for immigration are given points for different qualifications like education, skill levels, employability, language and family ties.

They would have to meet a minimum score to be allowed to immigrate.

Currently, the US immigration system restricts the number of people who can immigrate from each country to seven percent of the total number allowed in except for immediate relatives of citizens.

This has led to several years’ wait for Indians to get their green cards.

There is also an annual limit of 140,000 on employment-based green cards.

Because of the limits, most professionals from India have to wait as long as 12 years for a green card and those with “exceptional qualifications” nine years, according to the State Department visa availability data for March.

A merit-based system has the potential to cut down the wait.

How the reform would ultimately affect Indians could depend on how country limits and the cap on the number of employment visas are retained or handled and also on the retention of the immigration privileges for brothers and sisters of citizens and their families.

The reform may also affect the ability of brothers and sisters and elderly parents of citizens to immigrate if they are subjected to a points system.

“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws,” Trump said.

He appealed to the Democrats for bipartisan support for immigration reform.

“If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades,” he said. (IANS)

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Modi urges US to develop a farsighted perspective on movement of professionals

Feb 21, 2017 0

New Delhi–Welcoming a 26-member bipartisan delegation from the US Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged the United States to develop a balanced outlook towards the movement of skilled professionals, said an official here.

Underlining the contribution of the Indian talent to the US economy and society, the Prime Minister asked the United States to develop a reflective, balanced and farsighted perspective on movement of skilled professionals, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

“The Prime Minister shared his perspective on areas where both countries can work even more closely, including in facilitating greater people-to-people linkages that have over the years helped in contributing to each other’s prosperity,” it said.

India, in January, had expressed its concern over a bill to change rules on H-1B visas that will impact the IT industry and Indian techies working in America.

The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, introduced in the House of Representatives by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren, calls for doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000 — a move that could impact Indian techies.

Calling the visit as a good start to bilateral exchanges following a new US administration, Modi recalled his “positive conversation with President Donald Trump and the shared commitment to further strengthening of ties that have grown deeper in the last two-and-a-half years”.

“In this regard, he recognised Congress’s strong bipartisan support for the India-US partnership,” the statement added. (IANS)

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US government supports setting up F-16 facility in India: Lockheed Martin

Feb 16, 2017 0

Bengaluru– Lockheed Martin on Thursday said it is getting all support from the US government for its plan to move the production facility of its F-16 next generation fighters to India.

Randall L. Howard, F-16 Business Development head at Lockheed Martin, said at a press conference here that talks with the Indian government for the facility have reached a level where it is likely to turn into a government-to-government discussion.

“We have strong support from the US government. The discussions are at a point where it has become a government-to-government issue,” Howard said.

Lockheed Martin has offered to move its production line of the latest version of fighter aircraft F-16 Block 70 to India from Texas to meet Indian and global requirement.

The Defence Ministry has said it is looking forward to start a line of production for both single engine and twin engine fighter aircraft in India. This will however happen only when India chooses the aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

Randy said so far the company has received a communication from India inquiring about single engine aircraft.

In October 2016, the Defence Ministry started issuing requests-for-information (RFIs) for a new single-engine multi-role fighter to replace the Indian Air Force’s MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters.

Saab’s Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 have so far appeared to be top competitors for the deal.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at a press conference on the first day of Aero India 2017 show here was asked if US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ would come in the way of Make in India and stop US firms from participating in the programme.

Parrikar had said the question should be asked to companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“…What I will say is what I want… I want you to Make in India, if someone wants to shift production to some place else, it is his choice,” Parrikar had said.

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Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna Hosts Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill

Feb 14, 2017 0

Washington, DC–Ambassador of India Navtej Sarna hosted a Congressional Reception at the Capitol “to celebrate India’s engagement with the 115th US Congress” on Tuesday.

Addressing an impressive gathering of members of Congress, prominent Indian-Americans, congressional staffers, business representatives and media, Ambassador described the upcoming visit of 27 distinguished members of Congress as a very important milestone and demonstrative of the high degree of interest in India, and the strong bipartisan support for the India-US relationship, based on shared democratic values and converging strategic interests. He looked forward to a more robust economic and commercial cooperation as India retains its spot as the fastest growing major economy.

Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip echoed the bipartisan support for the India relationship and emphasized cooperation on security issues between the two largest democracies. Congressman Pete Olson spoke glowingly of the positive contributions of the Indian-American community in the way of life of Texans. He emphasized the significance of the port of Houston for energy exports.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats emphasized the importance of US-India cooperation in addressing the threat arising from extremist radical terrorism. He also spoke of the potential of US companies contributing in the economic transformation of India.

Congressman Ami Bera, Democratic Chair of the House India Caucus said that the increase in number of elected Indian-Americans currently in Congress is a testimony to the remarkable strides that the Indian-American community has made and the growing closeness between the two countries that is based on shared values. He noted that the India Caucus is the largest one on the Hill and his firm belief that the US-India relationship will be a defining one for the 21st century.

Congressman George Holding, Republican Chair of House India Caucus spoke of the importance of building the economic cooperation alongside the political relationship and looked forward to his upcoming visit to India.

Congressman Hank Johnson noted India’s millennial old history and reputation for peacefulness and the link between the non-violent movement for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and looked forward to his forthcoming visit to India.

Other Members of Congress present included Senator Jeff Flake, Congressman Bob Goodlatte- Chairman of House Judiciary committee, Congressman Andy Harris, Congressman Ted Poe- Chairman House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non- proliferation and Trade and Congressman Joe Kennedy.

Two distinguished Congressional delegations shall be visiting India in the week of 19th February. One delegation traveling under the auspices of the Aspen Institute and comprising 19 senior Congressmen shall be visiting Delhi, Hyderabad and the other led by Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and comprising 8 distinguished Congressmen has Delhi and Bangalore on its itinerary. They would have the opportunity to engage with Indian Ministers, decision makers, thinkers, business representatives and partake of the rich Indian cultural palette.

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India, US vow to boost defense ties

Feb 9, 2017 0

Washington– India and the US have agreed to maintain the pace and momentum of their partnership, particularly in the defence ties, after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke over phone with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, American and Indian officials said on Thursday.

Manohar Parrikar

Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said it was the “first conversation” between Mattis and Parrikar.

“Secretary Mattis committed to build upon the tremendous progress in bilateral defence cooperation made in recent years, underscoring the strategic importance of the US-India relationship and India’s role in advancing global peace and security,” Davis said after the two leaders spoke on Wednesday.

Jim Mattis

Mattis and Parrikar, Davis said, also “affirmed their commitment to sustain the momentum on key bilateral defence efforts to include the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative”.

The Defence Ministry in a statement in Delhi said the two leaders “expressed satisfaction at the progress in defence cooperation between India and the United States, especially in recent years and noted its significance in the regional and global context”.

It said Mattis and Parrikar “emphasised the special significance and high priority placed by both countries to the relationship, and resolved to work together to further consolidate and expand this partnership in the future”.

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20 Business Organizations Urge Congressional Action to Improve U.S.-India Economic Relationship

Feb 2, 2017 0

WASHINGTON, D.C.– As a new US Congress and administration start to define policies, business leaders representing nearly all sectors of the U.S. economy sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging them to work for a more robust and reciprocal U.S.-India economic relationship, including the advancement of concrete and lasting policy reforms to address ongoing challenges in India that have negatively impacted U.S. industries and jobs, according to a statement by Alliance for Fair Trade With India.

The letter notes: “While there have been several steps in the right direction over the past two and a half years since Prime Minister Modi’s election, including foreign investment openings in a few sectors, fossil fuel and energy efficiency policy initiatives, efforts to address infrastructure project permitting and licensing challenges, and passage of legislation related to bankruptcy and tax reforms, concrete and lasting policy changes to address a number of other longstanding issues comprehensively remain elusive.”

West side view of the United States Capitol building.

Among the outstanding issues manufacturers face in India, the letter cites “forced localization measures; high tariffs, including some contrary to India’s WTO commitments; foreign ownership restrictions in a number of sectors, including Business to Consumer (B2C) retail; insufficient protection of intellectual property rights; long and inconsistent government approvals and licenses; and unique and onerous standards and testing procedures” that harm opportunities for manufacturers in the United States and undermine efforts to deepen the U.S.-India relationship.

The letter concludes: “The U.S. government, including Congress, should use all available channels to ensure fair play for businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs across the United States, and to support Indian efforts that align with these goals,” including strengthening dialogue channels and active use of appropriate trade enforcement tools.

Business organizations signing the letter are: Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), American Business Conference (ABC), American Chemistry Council (ACC), American Foundry Society (AFS), Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), CropLife America, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), New Jersey Business & Industry Association, Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB).

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