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Business News -> India-US forum to focus on trade, investment expansion.

By Arun Kumar, Washington, February 9, 2008 (IANS)

Kamal NathInvestment and tariff and non-tariff barriers will be discussed at an India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting and the first ever summit of their small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Chicago on February 20, 2008. India-US direct bilateral merchandise trade has exhibited exponential growth over the last five years, increasing from US$18 billion in 2002 to US$38 billion in 2007(Jan-Nov) with US exports growing by 75% last year.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab will co-chair the TPF, while the US-India SME Summit will connect major corporate leaders in the two countries with their SMEs.

Discussions at the TPF established in 2005 will focus on the five jointly identified key areas: agriculture, innovation and creativity, which looks at the broad gamut of IPR-related issues; investment; services and tariff and non-tariff barriers. The meeting will also review the progress made since the last TPF meeting in April 2007 in New Delhi, according to the Indian embassy here.

Opening with a keynote address on "Enhancing US-India Bilateral Trade and Investment" by Kamal Nath and Schwab, the Indo-US SME Summit is aimed at expanding cooperation, especially in the manufacturing sector through leveraging the opportunities offered by global supply chains.

The two ministers would also be interacting with the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) set up at the last TPF meeting. The group, which includes eminent persons from both sides, will be meeting for the second time; the inaugural meeting took place in New York in September 2007.

While connecting major corporate leaders in the two countries, the summit will address the process by which SMEs can amplify the global competitiveness of firms of all sizes, according to the US-India Business Council, one of its co-sponsors.

Large multinational corporations will offer case studies on the SME role in maximising the global supply chain. In addition, government leaders will offer a vision for enhancing the US-India trade and investment relationship and describe synergies in the manufacturing sector.

A 60-plus strong delegation of India companies representing diverse industrial sectors is expected for the summit. Speakers and delegates will represent a variety of sectors, including general engineering, machine tools, aviation, auto components, food and agricultural processing.

They include the Boeing Company, the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Export-Import Bank in Washington D.C., and the State Bank of India (SBI).

The summit will feature matchmaking meetings Feb 21 connecting Indian and US SMEs and major multinationals to each other for new business opportunities.

Besides case study presentations on 'SMEs and Maximizing the Global Supply Chain', the summit will have an address on "Strengthening US-India Market Access" by Richard Stephens, senior vice-president of The Boeing Company.

There will also be panel discussions on A Vision for Future Opportunities;Financing SME Competitiveness in a Global Economy; and Enhanced SME Partnerships: Engineering and Manufacturing.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is organising the summit with the support of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and USIBC.

With India's manufacturing emerging as a new engine for growth, New Delhi looks at US an excellent partner to consolidate its position as a global manufacturing hub in the coming years. Chicago and mid-western states of US, which together form the manufacturing hub of the US, can play a special role in exploiting the synergies.

Kamal Nath will also be interacting with the local corporate community at a luncheon organized by the Executives' Club Feb 19. Later in the day, he will give a keynote remarks at an event co-organized by USIBC and FICCI -"Investing in America: The Indian story".

Indian SMEs contribute 40% of the country's manufacturing sector output, 6.75% of GDP and provide employment to about 20 million people. More than 50% of the Indian exports are contributed by SMEs of which about 15% is through indirect exports. India-US direct bilateral merchandise trade has exhibited exponential growth over the last five years, increasing from US$18 billion in 2002 to US$38 billion in 2007(Jan-Nov) with US exports growing by 75% last year.

Bilateral investments are also growing steadily. US happens to be the one of the largest investors in India, contributing about 11 % to the FDI actual inflows in India. While US investment into India during 2006-07 grew to $900 million, Indian investments in the US during the period crossed $2 billion with 46 outbound deals from April 2006 to March 2007.

These were equity investments made by Indian enterprises in joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries. The investments by Indian companies in the US during 2007 are estimated to be around $7 billion.

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