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South and Central Asia: Remarks With Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, and Indian Minister of Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman at the Joint S&CD Opening Plenary Session

MINISTER SWARAJ: Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Ms. Penny Pritzker, my colleague Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, co-chairs of India-U.S. CEO Forum Mr. Cyrus Mistry and Mr. Dave Cote, distinguished (inaudible).

I’m delighted to welcome all our guests from the United States to New Delhi for the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between India and the United States. I hope (inaudible).

Excellencies, we attach high importance to this mechanism to enable us (inaudible) and develop greater synergy and focus in our (inaudible). We began our deliberations this afternoon with (inaudible) meetings (inaudible). I (inaudible) discussion with Secretary Kerry covering key bilateral and regional issues. We have now (inaudible) with our plenary, which will be followed by parallel meetings of the Strategic and Commercial tracks. Our meeting takes place in the backdrop of significant increase in (inaudible) engagement.

Since our last meeting, our prime minister has visited the United States (inaudible) times and met with President Obama several times. June summit has charted an ambitious agenda for bilateral relations whose implementation (inaudible).

There has been frequent political-level interaction (inaudible). Even as we speak, our minister of defense is on the second visit to the United States in less than a year, making this year the second in a row that both defense ministers have exchanged visits in a calendar year. This is unprecedented.

Economic and financial partnership initiative at the level of finance ministers met earlier this year. Our home minister is planning to visit the U.S. shortly for the Homeland Security Dialogue. Some of the new dialogue mechanisms that we announced at our last meeting have already met. These include our high-level consultations, Policy Planning Dialogue, and the Track 1.5 Cyber Dialogue. Others, like the bilateral oceans dialogue, have also (inaudible).

In accordance with the roadmap for the Joint Strategic Vision, we have launched a maritime security dialogue. Our trilateral with Japan has moved from dialogue into action in exciting areas of regional connectivity and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Excellencies, in view of the rapidly evolving regional and global situation, we look forward to the resuming the meeting of the trilateral with Afghanistan, consultations on Africa, and on multilateral issues within this year.

Recently, we successfully launched the first UN peacekeeping post for African partners New Delhi. This is an apt symbol of our partnership for peace, security, and development in the wider world.

Our two countries share the same democratic (inaudible) of freedom, equality, pluralism, and rule of law. India’s enhanced global role is in our mutual interest. It is in this context that we look forward to continue working closely with the U.S. to secure membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Excellencies, we want to take our expanding defense cooperation to the next stage of co-production and co-development. For this, we need to define the benefits associated with India’s designation as a major defense partner of the U.S. during prime minister’s visit in June. This will spark defense industry collaboration between India and the U.S. and help India play the desired role as a net provider of security in the region.

We have taken some steps to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorism as emphasized in the joint declaration issued during the last meeting of this mechanism. There is (inaudible). This will be an important element of our deliberations today.

It is heartening to note that we have been able to conclude a framework for the India-U.S. cyber relationship, the first of its kind, both for India and the U.S., with any other country. Our leaders had worked closely together to ensure successful conclusion of the Paris Agreement. India’s commitment for implementation of the agreement is firm, and we are taking steps domestically to compress the timeline for its ratification (inaudible).

We hope that the next U.S. administration will continue to support the Paris Agreement with the same seriousness and purpose as you have done, and that the goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year from developed countries will be met with firm support from the U.S. Government.

Our partnership in clean energy has reached fresh impetus through launch of several initiatives that are (inaudible) and aimed at facilitating clean energy investments from U.S. into India. We need to significantly strengthen our collaboration in this area on a scale that will make it viable for us to make quantum transition to renewable energy away fossil fuel and achieve our ambitious climate goals.

I would also ask the United States to join the International Solar Alliance as an active member, which will be critical for its success.

Excellencies, our citizens are studying, living, and earning their livelihood in each other’s countries like never before. More than a million of our citizens are traveling in both directions every year, many of whom we hope will benefit from early implementation of the U.S. global entry program for Indian nationals. The issue of totalization and recent fee hike for H-1B an L-1 visa has affected our people-to-people exchanges, which is a vital source of strength for our relationship. I’m sure these issues will be deliberated in depth in the commercial track of our discussion. But I would urge you to find a just and non-discriminatory solution to these issues.

Excellencies, science and technology cooperation has created exciting opportunities. The joint commission meeting next month will allow our ministers to discuss them in more detail. India will take part in the Arctic Science Ministerial being hosted by the White House as well as in Our Ocean conference that you are hosting next month. Today, Indian and American scientists are engaged in jointly funded research from atoms to space, combining India’s talent with American infrastructure and transforming lives of millions around the world.

I’m happy that both sides have decided to explore scaling up of funds for the bilateral Indo-U.S. science and technology (inaudible). We will request your support in early conclusion of engineers and scientists exchange program agreement.

Indian and American health professionals have come together to eradicate pandemics and conduct research. We would like to develop our cooperation in the area of traditional medicine. American satellites have been successfully launched on Indian launch vehicles this summer at a great reduction of cost. We will request for positive consideration to our request for policy measure to allow launch of commercial U.S. satellites on board Indian vessels.

Excellencies, as our colleagues from commerce ministries and the business community will no doubt reflect, trade and investment has continued to grow and more opportunities are opening after the additional reforms that the Government of India took recently. As India unveils transformative economic programs at home – (inaudible) smart cities, Make In India, Digital India, or renewable energy – our potential for doing business has never looked more appealing.

We see the United States as an indispensable partner in achieving these goals. And this is why we need strategic direction and enhanced oversight on our economic and commercial engagement to make sure aspirations and interests of our businesses get high-level attention to guarantee that our commercial relations do not remain transactional and to foster better appreciation for the strategic priorities of our economic policies.

It is with that vision that I hope that you will treat the issue of India’s membership of the APEC Forum positively. This has as much strategic significance as it has commercial potential.

Excellencies, our leaders will see each other again in a few days from now in China and in Laos. My colleagues and I look forward to productive discussion this afternoon to review the wide canvas of our relations and present our assessment to our leaders.

Excellency, now I invite you to give your opening remarks. Thank you. Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Minister Swaraj, my friend Sushma, thank you very, very much for the extremely generous welcome. Thank you for your very comprehensive review. And thank you to India for not only hosting us here today, but thank you for your tremendous cooperation since the last dialogue. We’ve been building steady progress, and I’m delighted to be here.

Secretary Pritzker and Minister Sitharaman, it’s a pleasure to be with both of you today. There is a such a symbiosis – such a synergy between our sectors today. I’ve often said that economic policy is foreign policy and foreign policy is economic policy in today’s world. So we are joined at the hip in this endeavor, and we really appreciate the joint efforts of our teams.

I want to say a warm welcome to all of the delegations here and a thank you to every member of each delegation for all of the hard work that has been done. And I also want to thank Cyrus Mistry, the chairman of Tata Group and also the CEO of Honeywell, Dave Cote, a good friend of mine. I’m delighted with the private sector leadership and the private sector contribution to the dialogue that we will have here.

I’m personally very honored to be back in New Delhi and to participate in a second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between our countries. And it couldn’t come at a more important moment. As we begin this dialogue, I hope everybody here will take pride in all that we have accomplished in recent years and also, obviously, commit to all that we need to accomplish still as we seek to support one another’s growth, our vitality, and particularly in today’s world, our security going forward.

Our countries have deepened our cooperation on defense, counterterrorism, and cyber security. Our armies and our navies hold joint exercises that keep expanding in size and scope, and that now includes thousands of troops every single year. And we look forward to finalizing a cyber framework that will help us all to be able to recognize and to protect against new and evolving threats to global security. I think everybody here would agree that the pace at which technology is moving, while it presents us with enormous gains and great positive changes in quality of life, the length of life, cures of diseases, all forms of productivity and business and other thing, it also presents us with challenges in terms of security, and particularly in terms of cyber.

So our economic and our commercial ties, as Secretary Pritzker and Minister Sitharaman will highlight – those are also becoming stronger. But we will leave them to describe what is happening in those sectors. I think everybody would agree, though, that in both sectors – security and economics – we have room to be able to further grow and to expand our two-way trade, our investment, but also to solve security problems in doing that. Now I’m speaking specifically of the energy sector, where we have enormous opportunities. One of the reasons that we’re all here with a sense of enthusiasm is that India is going to be hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017, and that’s an exciting opportunity for even more progress.

Our collaboration in battling climate change has really been significant. I thank you, Sushma – I think I spoke to you earlier about this, but – and I met with Minister Goyal earlier – we’re very grateful for India’s joining with the world and particularly offering leadership that made a huge difference in Paris. Overcoming decades of differences, our governments were among the nearly 200 people that came together there in Paris last December to finalize the most ambitious global climate agreement ever reached. And India and this region understand as well as any part of the world what the consequences of inaction are. So I hope we will work together now to bring that agreement into force soon and to ensure that the commitments made under it are implemented.

In addition, we’re both focused on preserving the health and the sustainability of our maritime resources – and you referred to this a moment ago, Sushma. I appreciate very much India’s participation in the Our Ocean Conference that will take place on the 15th and 16th of September in Washington. We’re also working to bring new technologies and financing to help India meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. And today, with Minister Goyal, we arrived at an understanding with our envoy, Amos Hochstein, on exactly how we are going to be able to proceed forward to try to work on some of the financing that is essential to meeting India’s ambitious goal of meeting its demand, which is a natural objective.

We also hope to see our civil nuclear cooperation take shape in the form of new reactors that will deliver reliable electricity to tens of millions of Indian households.

More broadly, our efforts in science and space, in education and medicine, are bringing needed solutions to press the domestic and the global challenges. And when India and the United States join forces, the beneficial impacts are felt not only in our own country, but believe me, they are felt by many other countries – not just in the region, but they’re felt in the lives of millions of people overseas. And this is especially true in the field of public health, where our researchers and our specialists are leading the fight against outbreaks of the Zika virus, of dengue, and of tuberculosis.

So that is just to get things started. There’s a lot more for us to review, to discuss, to hammer out over the course of the afternoon, the evening, tomorrow. But the fact is that our plate, between our two nations, is as full now as it has ever been. And I know that every single person here is ready to dig in and do the work necessary to meet our objectives.

This will be the last time that I have the privilege of helping to lead this dialogue. As you all know, we’re about to have an election and a new administration. But I’m very, very confident that we will continue to strengthen what President Obama has called the “defining partnership of the 21st century.” After all, the United States and India are both global leaders. We are the two strongest and largest democracies in the world. We have enormous connection between our values, and we live in an era when strong and principled and visionary leadership is absolutely essential. It makes all the difference, and we are proud that India is a partner with us in offering that leadership.

Thank you, Sushma.

MINISTER SWARAJ: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. May I now invite my colleague, minister of state (inaudible).

MINISTER SITHARAMAN: Secretary of State John Kerry, my senior colleague Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the two co-chairs of the CEO Forum Dave Cote and Cyrus Mistry, secretary (inaudible) Department of Commerce (inaudible), and ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be here today to welcome this delegation (inaudible) Strategic and Commercial (inaudible) in New Delhi (inaudible) for the global (inaudible) India and the United States has gathered strength, and the bilateral trade of more than 105 billion U.S. dollars is a testament to this fact. We all know that this figure is much below potential as the trade complementarity between the two large democracies is very high. It has been (inaudible) both countries to use the institutional dialogues like the Trade Policy Forum and the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, to address the issue being faced by trade and look at broader economic policy initiatives that we need now, and I must mention that such engagements have been highly productive from the point of view of both the countries.

These mechanisms have provided the (inaudible) for sustained interaction between public and private sector who work together to identify new areas of cooperation and to work around challenges and (inaudible) to smoothen the flow of relationship. Our leaders have agreed to a very ambitious target of taking the bilateral trade to over 500 billion U.S. dollars (inaudible) to work (inaudible) and to solve 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 revitalize our economy to facilitate greater investment. As a part of our autonomous (inaudible) exercise, we have made a number of changes in our FDI policy to bring more activities on the automatic route and easing conditionality for foreign investment.

New sectors like defense and (inaudible) have been opened to foreign investment. Reforms undertaken in the recent months have shown us good results, and FDI inflows into India have increased at a time when globally there is a decline in the investment inflows. Total FDI inflow into India, which was at about 36 billion U.S. dollars during 2013-14, increased to 44.2 U.S. – it was 44.2 billion U.S. dollars in ’14-’15, and further increased as during the year 2015-16, India received 55.4 billion U.S. dollars as FDI. FDI from USA has also shown a positive growth trend from 804 million U.S. dollars in 2013-14 to 4,190 million U.S. dollars in 2015-16, 4,190 million U.S. dollars in 2015-16.

Our persistent efforts, of course, have borne fruit in bringing a simplified tax regime, which has shown its way for clearing the GST Bill in a bipartisan – by bipartisan support. And this augurs very well for the Indian economy.

As part of our Ease of Doing Business Initiative, we have taken a number of strong steps, which have resulted in raising India’s rank much higher with the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report. The (inaudible) as quoted has helped in providing a one-stop shop for the investors to apply for different services. The integration of the state governments on this whole thing has further strengthened and expanded the number of services offered through this platform. 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, which allows the importers and exporters to have to find only one common declaration on the customs (inaudible). Our initiative in e-trade has resulted in slashing the documentation requirement for exporters and importers.

I am pleased here to note that there were significant progress on the recommendation of the CEO Forum, as well as under our four work streams; namely, on standards, on ease of doing business, on innovation and entrepreneurship, and finally, on infrastructure and smart cities. In the last one year, we have had interactions with Reverse Trade Mission, which visited from the United States, and collaboration between ministry of finance and the U.S. Treasury related to floating of municipal bonds to generate additional resources.

We also (inaudible) 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 trading across borders as a barometer. 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 a 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 government’s policy of minimum government and maximum governance. There has been a conscious effort towards making India a global hub for innovation, for design, and for development.

The Startup India and Digital India initiatives are expected to provide the platform for entrepreneurs to pursue their business ideas in a conducive environment. It is worthwhile to mention here that India jumped from the rank number 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 and U.S. collaboration in strengthening innovation clusters for mutual benefit 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 partnership in other areas of technology, design, and so on.

The launch of the India U.S. Innovation Forum in New Delhi yesterday was a good beginning, and I am confident that the 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 the engagement to be strengthened further. CII is progressing with the development of standards portal in collaboration with ANSI, the A-N-S-I, and we expect to launch the first version in September 2016.

The engagement between the National Physical Laboratory on the Indian side and NIST on the U.S. side has seen some tangible developments, and we are looking forward to a more robust engagement in this area too in 2017. In addition, our bilateral – in addition to our bilateral engagement, we are working closely with the U.S. and our other key stakeholders in important international foras, including the WTO and international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF and the UN Security Council for institutional reform and unfinished agendas. We are negotiating some important regional and mega-regional free trade agreements with our partners, like the RCEP and India-EU, BTIA. Some of us stakeholders have raised concerns regarding measures which have potential to act as barriers with a movement (inaudible) persons and professionals. The concerns of our government in this regard have been conveyed in the past, and we could hope that specific (inaudible) having potential to adversely impact our trade and (inaudible). We have tremendous optimism regarding the promise and growing realization of a potential for trade and investment.

Ladies and gentlemen, the onus is squarely on all of us to work together to strengthen and – to strengthen the partnership between India and the U.S. as this partnership will have a significant role in shaping the (inaudible) new global trade. I look forward to continue the momentum of our bilateral engagement between the governments and the business on both the sides for ensuring a positive and balanced outcome of this engagement. I wish to thank all (inaudible) each one of you for being present (inaudible). Thank you.

MINISTER SWARAJ: (Inaudible.) Now I request the Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Thank you, Minister Swaraj, and it’s good to see you again. It’s my honor to serve with you and as co-chair of the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue along with my colleague Secretary Kerry, and with Minister Sitharaman. I would also like to extend my thanks to the private sector co-chairs of the U.S.-India CEO Forum, Honeywell CEO, Dave Cote, and Tata Chairman, Cyrus Mistry.

Before I begin, I want to congratulate the Modi government on the series of reforms that have been undertaken since our last meeting, in particular on the passage of the Goods and Services Tax. This is an extraordinary accomplishment that has the potential to not only accelerate growth, but to transform the business climate here in India. And once implemented, I know that it will create more opportunities, not only for our Indian and American firms, but frankly, for our economies as a whole.

During President Obama’s historic visit to India for the 2015 Republic Day celebration, he and Prime Minister Modi tasked us, as Minister Sitharaman said, with a very simple, yet ambitious goal: to elevate our commercial relationship to the same level as our strategic ties. At that time, we committed to increasing our trade and investment relationship fivefold to $500 billion, aspiring to make it one of the largest in the world. To achieve this aim, our governments have been focused on making it easier to do business between the United States and India. We’ve been developing India’s smart cities and addressing India’s infrastructure needs. We’ve been building bridges between our innovators and our entrepreneurs. And we’ve been better aligning U.S. and Indian standards.

In a very short time, we’ve seen how this dialogue can make us stronger economic partners. And our challenge at this year’s S&CD is to think bigger, to act bolder, and to continue to deliver real results. As Prime Minister Modi said in his recent address at the United States Congress, and I quote, “Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation.” He is truly a man after my own heart.

In today’s commercial session, we will advance our practical cooperation on the four streams of work that we began last year, and in addition, we will undertake a new effort: the joint promotion of travel and tourism. Bringing more Indians and more Americans together is good for our economies, good for our people, and great for our relationship.

In that spirit of partnership, this year we will also be focusing on connecting Indian and U.S. companies looking for investment opportunities with local leaders and economic development officers in the cities and states of both of our countries. And as a former business leader, I know that when a company is considering where to invest, they look at more than just the business climate of a country at large. They consider the skills of the local workforce, access to the needed supply chain, quality of the regional infrastructure, proximity to the researchers at regional world-class universities, and so much more. And no one understands an area’s strengths better than its local leaders. And we believe that forging new partnerships at the state and regional level will yield great benefits for both Indian and American companies and our Indian and American communities, and will certainly grow our bilateral trade.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, these ties between government and business have never been more important; I think Secretary Kerry said it so well. All of us here today share a common goal: We want to see the United States and India generate sustainable prosperity and implement policies that create jobs and economic growth for our citizens. But our governments cannot do this alone. Partnership with the private sector leaders – the people who actually build companies, who actually make investments, who actually create jobs – is essential to good policymaking. And both American and Indian business leaders have incredible insights into our economies and are helping us to prioritize our policy changes. And I firmly believe that their voices are a key reason for our progress through the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue over the past year.

When we linked this dialogue with the U.S.-India CEO Forum, we asked our CEOs to be more than just the leaders of their respective companies. We asked them to serve as emissaries for a deeper, more strategic bilateral relationship between the United States and India. In essence, we asked them to be commercial diplomats. And today, as we embark on the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, the strategic and commercial partnership between the United States and India has never been stronger.

As Minister Sitharaman highlighted in the data that she shared, we trade – today we trade more with each other, we invest more in each other, and we do more business together. However, we have more to do to reach the incredible potential that exists between our two countries. And I look forward to building upon the trust, the openness, and honesty that we’ve developed. Thank you all very much.

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