US supports India’s rise: Obama

Saturday, November 6, 2010

MUMBAI - US President Barack Obama Saturday said ties with India constitute a “defining and indispensable” partnership of this century that cannot be wished away and asked businesses from the two sides to look at each other as partners and not threats.

“We not only welcome India’s rise, but we ardently support it, as we live in an inter-connected world. Commerce between America and India will benefit both,” the president told a business summit at Oberoi’s Trident Hotel here on the first day of his maiden four-day visit to India, his longest to any country.

“I believe the relationship between United States and India will be one of the defining and Indispensable partnerships of the 21st century,” he said, as some 400 top executives and business leaders from the two sides listened with interest.

“Economic relations between our countries still has enormous untapped potential. All the goods that India imports less than 10 percent comes from US and all that the US exports, less than 2 percent goes to India,” he said.

“Americans have helped build India and India has helped to build America,” he said in a speech, that received at wide applause at least five times, ending with a standing ovation after his 25-minute address.

Obama, who made passing reference to the Congressional election where the Democrats lost control in the House of Representatives to rival Republicans, told his audience back home that Americans stood to “benefit from strengthening ties with India”.

Both Democrats and Republicans support the growing partnership with India, though a section of Republicans have criticised the Obama visit for the expense factor.

Obama’s comments came against the backdrop of trade between the US and India more than doubling to $37 billion in 2009 compared with 2003, according to data available with the US Commerce Department, which has also been worried over the trade imbalance skewed in favour of India.

In the first eight months of 2010, total trade topped $32 billion, with imports by India up 20 percent and exports higher by 40 percent. The two sides feel bilateral trade can top $50 billion in the next couple of years.

Among the corporate leaders invited for the event included Honeywell’s David Cote who co-chairs the India-US CEO Forum with Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, PepsiCo chairperson Indra Nooyi, Boeing Co’s Jim McNerney and General Electric Co’s Jeffrey Immelt.

The event was organised by the United States-India Business Council (USIBC), whose chairman Terry McGraw, also the chief executive of Mcgraw Hill Companies, which owns rating agency Standard and Poor’s, is also a part of the business delegation.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the US Department of Commerce were the co-hosts of the event, also attended by over 200 business leaders from the US.

Ahead ofPresident Obama’s speech, the US side unveiled commercial deals worth over $15 billion that will also address the domestic constituency by supporting nearly 54,000 jobs in the US.

The deals include the purchase of as many as 33 Boeing-737 aircraft by the Indian budget carrier SpiceJet and an order on General Electric to supply 414 engines to power India’s indigenous light combat aircraft, knowledgable sources here said.

The US side also eased export control norms on some Indian defence firms.

These entities could include the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and guided weapons maker Bharat Dynamics, all of which are state-run agencies, officials said ahead of the business meeting.

Filed under: Economy

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