On Trade With India, President Obama says 'We've Got to do Better'

On Trade With India, President Obama says 'We've Got to do Better'

President Obama shakes hands with PM Modi (L) at the conclusion of CEO Roundtable and Forum at the India US Business Summit in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama on Monday highlighted the huge potential the two countries have when it came to economic ties. India and the US - the only two major economies growing at the moment - together do trade worth just $100 billion.

"Of all US imports, just 2 per cent come from India and of all US exports, about 1 per cent go to India - that's 1 per cent to a billion people... US trade with India is $100 billion as compared to $560 billion with China," President Obama said, highlighting "untapped potential" between the two countries. "We must do better," he added.

To scale up the trade relationship, President Obama announced $4 billion in government-backed investments and lending to India - $1 billion would be used to finance exports of 'Made-in-America' products, while another $1 billion will be made available to small- and medium-sized enterprises in underserved rural areas of India. Investment worth $2 billion will be committed for renewable energy in India, President Obama told a gathering of 50-odd top business leaders. (Read: President Obama Announces $4 Billion in India Investment, Lending Deals)

But, he said, there were still too many barriers to doing business in India, even as he hailed moves made by PM Modi to cut red tape. "There are still too many barriers, hoops to jump through," Mr Obama said speaking alongside Modi, adding, "We hear this consistently from business leaders such as you." (Also read: Still 'Too Many Barriers' to Business in India: President Obama)

PM Modi did not announce any specific investment, but he promised a stable and predictable tax regime. He said that his government is ready to accept suggestions made by a joint working group with the US on intellectual property rights.

Much of PM Modi's focus was on convincing US businessmen to invest in India. He reiterated that the first target of his government was to raise the purchasing power of Indians and said his "Make in India" focus should not be construed as an attempt to push exports only.

Highlighting the government's thrust on improving the ease of doing business in India, Mr Modi said his PMO would monitor all big projects to ensure they are complete in time.

Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, who was part of the India-US CEO forum, told NDTV, "I am happy that the PMO has taken the responsibility on monitoring large US investments. I am hopeful that the $500 billion trade target will be reached in less than a decade."

The address by the two leaders followed an hour-long meeting with some of biggest business leaders from India and the US. Seventeen Indian CEOs attended the India-US CEO forum, which was co-chaired by Cyrus Mistry of Tata Sons and David M Cote from Honeywell.

Others on the forum from the Indian side included Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Group; Bharti chief Sunil Mittal; ICICI Bank MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar; Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka; Adani Group head Gautam Adani; Shashi Ruia, Chairman of Essar Group; Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra; Hari Bhartia, co-chairman and director of Jubilant Life Sciences, Biocon Chairman and MD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw; and Sudhir Mehta of Torrent Pharma.

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