India: Protectionism fears remain but US-India collaboration to continue

Jan 21, 2017 0

New Delhi– With Donald Trump taking over the reins of the US, industry stakeholders in India and the government feel that the fears of protectionism and curbs on H1B visas will remain, but that the US will continue its financial and technological collaboration with India.

“We believe that US will continue to support global growth with financial and technological collaborations and investments,” Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa told IANS.

“We hope to build strong relationship between two dynamic democracies for the mutual benefit of the two biggest economies for the well being and prosperity of its people,” Lavasa added.

Nevertheless, industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) pointed out that the focus of the new US regime would be “inwards”.

Sunil Kanoria

“Not much of globalisation is expected. They will have the preference and support to their own people which is natural. Indian industries have to reinvent themselves. Indian industries have to take the opportunity in terms of goods and services, investing in the US,” Sunil Kanoria, President, Assocham and Vice Chairman, Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited told IANS.

“Apprehensions over possible negative impact on India’s IT industry is nothing but exaggeration. Indian IT professionals are known the world over for their expertise in providing affordable IT products and solutions and the same has been acknowledged globally,” D.S. Rawat, Secretary General of Assocham, told IANS.

However, industry chamber Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said Indian industry is very optimistic about the incoming administration under President Trump and the future of India-US relations under the new US administration.

“The optimism about President Trump stems from the fact that he promises major tax cuts and reforms, which may instil the US back on a 3-4 per cent growth path, reviving not only the US economy but boosting the global economy,” the chamber added.

Another leading industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) hoped that “enormous mutual complementarities” between the two countries economies are fully leveraged.

“Business has always been at the forefront of this bilateral relationship and has helped strengthen the strategic imperative,” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII was quoted as saying in a statement.

“As President Trump begins to implement his America First vision, we hope that the enormous mutual complementarities between our two economies are fully leveraged.”

“Indian companies are very much a part of the fabric of America and they stand ready to work with President Trump going forward,” Banerjee added.

State Bank of India chief economist Soumya Kanti Ghosh felt that the US will go for some sort of fiscal expansion – through increased infrastructure spending or tax cuts – which will lead to some capital outflow from India.

“If the US goes for fiscal expansion then countries like India will be at a disadvantage because there will be capital outflow from India,” Ghosh told IANS.

“Protectionist trend is another thing that India is fearful about. It could harm the developing economies more than the developed economies. It could be a drag on the developing economies. Lower growth in India-US trade could be problematic for India,” he added.

Ghosh, however, said the true impact of Trump becoming the 45th President of the US needs to be assessed after the initial 100 days as his policies unfold because the impact on India could be both positive and negative.

The worst fear is the effect on Indian IT industry in terms of curbs on H1B visas as promised by Trump. The stakeholders, however, felt that the issue has always been there and the apprehension could turn out to be an exaggeration.

“H1B visa is a bone of contention. The issue is there for a long time. It is just getting more attention now because the US President has specifically mentioned it. But we should not give too much attention to it,” Ghosh said.

R. Chandrashekhar, President, Nasscom, said the Indian IT industry looks forward to working with the Trump administration and the new Congress on issues of great importance.

“Our members provide critical services to thousands of companies, government agencies, non-profits and others across America. Indian IT companies work with 75 per cent of the Fortune 500 firms and help meet the needs of US businesses for skilled IT solutions to innovate, open new markets and expand operations, and thereby create thousands of jobs for Americans,” Chandrashekhar told IANS.

Indian IT firms have also significantly invested across the US. A survey found 84 of 100 Indian companies plan to invest in the US over the next five years, building on a presence in all the 50 states already.

“Contrary to some mis-perceptions and political rhetoric, the Indian IT sector has long contributed to the US economy in more ways than one. Besides making the US firms more efficient and competitive, the Indian IT industry has helped them develop new technologies and new products over the years, benefiting their customers and the American job growth,” B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, former Chairman, Nasscom told IANS.

With the rhetoric of Trump fading into the past, Reddy said that the US administration would take a balanced approach to high-skilled visas and the contribution of India’s IT sector to its economy.

Nidhi Goyal, Managing Director-Tax and Regulatory Affairs, Protiviti, told IANS: “Indians working abroad on H1B visa may not get extension to continue working in the US as its own citizens will be given preference over non-US citizens.”

Experts feel the equity markets will react strongly.

“President Trump’s remark ‘Buy American, Hire American’ is extremely disturbing. Protectionist nationalism is bad for global economy, global trade and markets. Stock markets will view this negatively,” V.K. Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist, Geojit BNP Paribas, told IANS. (IANS)

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Don’t be flippant with Indian symbols, Amazon told

Jan 15, 2017 0

New Delhi– Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das on Sunday asked e-tailer Amazon to refrain from being flippant about Indian symbols and icons and warned the American e-commerce giant that “indifference will be at your own peril”.

“Amazon, better behave. Desist from being flippant about Indian symbols & icons. Indifference will be at your own peril,” Das said in a tweet.

“Remain committed to economic reforms, ease of doing business & open trade. Sometimes get touchy when our icons are involved,” he said in a separate tweet.

Shaktikanta Das

In a third tweet, however, he added: “Comment on Amazon was as a citizen of India as I felt strongly about it. Nothing more should be read into it.”

The Secretary’s comments came days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj received a complaint about doormats portraying the Indian flag being listed for sale on Amazon’s Canada website.

Two days after Amazon’s Canada portal removed the article with doormats depicting the Indian flag after India objected to it, the online company, on its US portal, put up another article of slippers with Mahatma Gandhi’s image on it.

This provoked the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to say on Saturday that the company should respect Indian sensitivities and sentiments.

“As a follow up to the matter regarding the sale of doormats with the Indian flag on Amazon, our Ambassador in Washington has been instructed to convey to Amazon that while providing a platform for third party vendors, they should respect Indian sensitivities and sentiments,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Amazon describes the products as ‘Gandhi flip flops’ as a pair of “foam rubber flip flops”. It costs $16.99, or about Rs 1,200.

Soon after India threatened it won’t grant visas to any Amazon official if the company did not withdraw the Indian flag-themed doormat from its Canadian platform, the e-commerce website removed the article from the online marketplace, a media report said on Thursday.

“Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately,” Swaraj had said in a tweet.

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Amazon writes to Sushma, regrets hurting Indian sensibilities

Jan 12, 2017 0

New Delhi–Amazon has written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressing regrets at hurting Indian sensibilities, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Thursday.

Swarup in a tweet said Amazon, in a response to Sushma Swaraj’s tweet, expressed “regret at hurting Indian sensibilities” and added that they have pulled off the offending item.

A copy of the letter was also tweeted by Sushma Swarup in which Amazon said the items – doormats with Indian flag – were posted by a third party and they took it down.

Sushma Swaraj

“A third-party seller, not Amazon, had listed these products for sale in Canada. These products were not available in India. After learning of the product’s listing, we immediately removed them from the Canadian website and implemented measures to ensure that these products could not be sold on any of our other marketplace or websites,” the letter said.

The letter said Amazon remains “steadfastly committed to India”, and refered to its CEO Jeff Bezo’s announcement to invest $5 billion in India.

It said Amazon values “immensely” its relationship with the Indian government, the country’s entrepreneurs and innovators, Indian customers and employees.

“Amaon is committed to respecting Indian laws and customs. To the extend that these items offered by a third-party seller in Canada offended Indian sensibilities, Amazon regrets the same,” it said.

“At not time did we intend or mean to offend Indian sentiments,” it said.

After being tweeted images of doormats featuring the Indian flag being available on Amazon Canada site by two vendors — Mayers Flag Doormats and XLYL, Sushma Swaraj had on Wednesday said Amazon must tender an unconditional apology and withdraw all products insulting the Tricolour, otherwise no Amazon official will get an Indian visa. (IANS)

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Amazon removes Indian flag doormat from website

Jan 11, 2017 0

Washington/Ottawa– Soon after India threatened of not granting Indian Visa to any Amazon official if the company did not withdraw an Indian flag-themed doormat from its Canadian platform, the e-commerce website removed the article from the online marketplace.

A spokesman for Amazon based at its headquarters in Seattle contacted The Washington Post to say that the doormat was no longer for sale on its website.

Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said Amazon must tender an unconditional apology and withdraw all products insulting the Tricolour, otherwise no Amazon official will get an Indian visa.

“Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately,” the External Affairs Minister said in a tweet.

“If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier,” she said.

Doormats featuring the Indian flag were made available on Amazon Canada site by two vendors — Mayers Flag Doormats and XLYL.

An image of the products was tweeted to the Minister, after which she asked the Indian High Commission in Canada to raise the issue with Amazon.

“Indian High Commission in Canada: This is unacceptable. Please take this up with Amazon at the highest level,” the Minister tweeted. (IANS)

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Don’t overestimate Indo-US economic ties: Chinese daily

Jan 10, 2017 0

Beijing– India is fooling itself if it thinks its economy will bloom by siding with the US, an influential Chinese newspaper said on Tuesday.

The state-run Global Times warned in an editorial that “overestimating US-India economic ties may mislead India and send it down the wrong path for economic development”.

It told New Delhi to work with a “manufacturing powerhouse” like China.

The editorial came after Assocham said India was likely to be harmed by the trade war between the US and China. It said India’s service exports to Americans firms would be hit if it did not side with the US.

“It would be naive for India to assume that its economy will boom if it draws closer to the upcoming Trump administration amid a pending trade war between Beijing and Washington,” said the daily.

US President-elect Donald Trump has threatened China with high taxes on Chinese goods and accused it of devaluing Chinese currency.

Assocham’s advise to India to “lean toward Washington” to avoid being implicated and be ready to reap economic gains appears pragmatic but could prove short-sighted, said the daily, which is known to reflect the thinking in the Chinese Communist leadership.

“New Delhi needs to be realistic in terms of growth.

“Instead of tilting toward the US, it should focus on developing its manufacturing industry and integrating itself into the global supply chain…

“To achieve that, the best way is to work with a manufacturing powerhouse like China and develop its manufacturing capacity to become an integral part of the Asian supply chain.”

The paper said India was mistaken if it thought the US needed India more than it needs China.

“The weight of economic ties between China and the US is heavier than those between India and the US.

“Bilateral trade between China and the US reached $558 billion in 2015 while trade between India and US was about $109 billion.

“It would be self-deceptive to believe that the US needs India more than it does China.”

China is the top trade partner of the US and over 120 countries.

“India needs to realize that there is no shortcut when it comes to economic development. Failing to realize this, India risks setting its economy on a dead-end route,” the editorial said. (IANS)

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Nasscom to counter H1-B visa bill

Jan 7, 2017 0

Mumbai– In a bid to counter the bill for H1-B visas which has been re-introduced in the US Congress after a failed attempt in July last year, Nasscom will highlight the discriminatory nature of the proposed provisions, a top official said.

“The US government’s statistics said there is shortage of skilled workers. It is question of demand and supply. The current bill and many other such legislative measures are applied on a discriminatory basis.

Nasscom president R. Chandrashekhar

“We continue to share our perceptions about the skill shortages that exist, the kind of contribution the IT industry has made to corporate America. We share our deep concern at the discriminatory nature of the proposed provisions,” Nasscom’s President R. Chandrashekhar told BTVi in an interview.

The bill proposes a minimum pay of $100,000 annually to every employee taken to US under the H1-B visa which is an over 66 per cent increase from the current average.

He said the bill was a statement of intention at this point of time.

“We have to see what route it takes. It does not immediately mean that anything is going to happen in a hurry,” said Chandrashekhar.

The competitiveness of the industry arises from the value proposition of India, he said.

“In the past, there has been reluctance in the US Congress to deal with such issues relating to immigration on a piecemeal basis in preference for a more comprehensive bill which covers all the aspects of immigration,” he said. (IANS)

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John Chambers-led USIBC delegation to Vibrant Gujarat Summit among the largest

Jan 7, 2017 0

WALTHAM, MA–John Chambers, USIBC Board Chairman and Executive Chairman, Cisco Systems will lead a delegation of almost 100 representatives from leading U.S. companies to the 8th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, US-India Business Council said in a statement.

Companies in the delegation include: Cisco, Emerson, CME Group, 3M Company, Varian Medical, BIO, Dell, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, FedEx, Gilead, Huntsman Corporation and Mastercard, among others.

Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President, US India Business Council said, “Vibrant Gujarat has placed India on the world map, providing an impetus to industrial growth, innovation and has paved the way for multinational companies to integrate India in their global supply chain. I congratulate Prime Minister Modi for realizing the dream of not just Vibrant Gujarat but a Vibrant India.”

John Chambers

He further added, “In 2016-17, USIBC is expecting an additional inflow of US $27 billion to India by at least 52 U.S. companies. We are delighted to see the fastened pace of India’s recent domestic reforms.”

The USIBC Delegation to Vibrant Gujarat, led by John Chambers, comprises several CEOs and senior executives, including Ed Monser, Vice-Chairman, USIBC and President, Emerson Electric; David Farr, CEO, Emerson Electric; Ashish Khandpur, Senior Vice President & CTO, 3M Company; Peter Huntsman, CEO, Huntsman Corporation; Amit Midha, President – Asia Pacific & Japan, Dell; Ravi Aurora, Senior Vice President, MasterCard; Jim Greenwood, CEO, BIO; Richard Boocock, President- India, Middle East, Egypt & Turkey, Air Products & Chemicals; Sukhveer Singh, Vice President, Varian Medical Systems; Raj Subramaniam, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Executive Vice President, FedEx Corporation; Ambassador Robert Blake, Senior Director, McLarty Associates.

During the five-day summit, the delegation will hold meetings with the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi; Hon’ble Union Minister for Finance, Shri Arun Jaitley; Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Commerce & Industries, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman; Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani; Niti Aayog CEO Shri Amitabh Kant, in addition to other senior state and central government officials. The delegation aims to reinforce the significance of U.S.-India bilateral trade, explore opportunities for accelerating American investment in India and promote job creation for both economies.

The USIBC and U.S. Embassy will also host the United States Country Seminar on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. This seminar will focus on U.S. -led innovation and entrepreneurship as a driver for economic growth in India.

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 Envoy Richard Verma likely to end his Indian assignment

Jan 6, 2017 0

By Arul Louis

New York– US President Barack Obama’s appointee as ambassador to India, Richard Verma, may be ending his New Delhi assignment this month when President-elect Donald Trump takes over on January 20 if an administration directive to non-career diplomats holds.

The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration has asked all “non-career ambassadors to submit their resignations effective with the close of the Obama presidency” on January 20. The newspaper quoted three unidentified officials as confirming that all the ambassadors have complied with the directive.

Richard Verma

While requests for resignations by non-career diplomats is usually made at the end of a president’s term, they are usually given some additional time to wind up their affairs. This time there was “the additional admonition that the resignations would be blanket and final,” the newspaper said.

The Post said according to two officials “the unusually stern and specific directive to ‘political ambassadors'” came at the “behest of the incoming Trump administration.”

Verma, a non-career diplomat, is the first person of Indian descent to be ambassador to India.

He did not come up the ranks of the foreign service but was recruited in 2009 to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs under Hillary Clinton when she was the Secretary of State.

He left the State Department in 2011 to work for a law firm before being appointed ambassador to India in 2014. His nomination received unanimous support from both parties in the Senate.

Long associated with the Democratic Party, he has served as the senior national security advisor to Senator Harry Reid when the Democratic Party had the Senate majority and Reid was its leader.

Verma has worked as an aide to the late Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha and as a director with National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

A lawyer by training, he has also served in the Air Force as a judge advocate. (IANS)

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Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal to attend Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Vibrant Gujarat Summit

Jan 4, 2017 0

New York– US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal is starting a farewell visit to India on Thursday that will take her to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru and the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in Ahmedabad.

Nisha Biswal

The State Department said that she would also visit New Delhi and Mumbai and meet business leaders and government officials “to discuss the dynamic growth in ties between the US and India.

This would be Biswal’s last visit to India in her current capacity as the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. She would leave office on January 20 when President Barack Obama’s term ends.

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Nasscom, Georgia Tech sign an agreement to drive innovation in IoT

Dec 20, 2016 0

New Delhi– IT industry’s representative body Nasscom on Tuesday said it signed an MoU with Georgia Tech Advanced Research Corporation (GTARC) towards advancing Internet of Things (IoT) and fostering IoT-based innovation through the development of a conducive ecosystem in India.

The MoU will see both Nasscom and GTARC cooperating to address technological and non-technological challenges that surround the adoption of IoT technologies and creating an amiable environment for all organisations in the industry.

The agreement between Nasscom’s Centre of Excellence on the Internet of Things (COE-IoT) and GTARC’s Centre for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies (CDAIT), will also raise awareness on IoT.

Alain Louchez

“IoT will also be used across these industries to improve productivity with minimum usage of natural resources. We are happy to be partnering with GTARC. This will help us combine GTARC’s advanced technology research along with the thriving innovation ecosystem in India,” Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO of Nasscom COE-IoT, said in a statement.

“In close cooperation with Nasscom’s IoT centre, we intend to explore ways to leverage IoT technologies to accelerate and optimise the pace of digital transformation throughout the economy,” added Alain Louchez, Managing Director of GTARC’s Centre for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies.

The CoE-IoT is a joint initiative between the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Education and Research Network (ERNET) and Nasscom and features laboratory that provides IoT focused startups the usage of various facilities.

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