Monday, November 27, 2006

>Biggest ever US trade team to India

A delegation representing 227 American firms is arriving in India on November 28 in what will be the largest ever trade delegation sent by the US to any country in the world.

Telecom giant Avaya is a part of the delegation, as are Exxon Mobil Gas, Exxon Mobile India, GE Energy, Lockheed Martin, Motorola India, Net2phone and Northrop Grumman International..

Several state-level boards, like the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, are also a part of the team, the largest chunk of which—15 per cent—represents the information technology and services firms.

US Under Secretary of International Trade Franklin Lavin told Business Standard via a teleconference from Washington that the purpose of the mission was as much to persuade India to amend policies to facilitate US investment as it was to enable US industry to gain new insights into the working of the Indian companies.

Interestingly, several companies which will be represented have no room under the present policy regime. For example, BWXT, which specialises in heavy nuclear components, will have to wait for as it will be able to get business in India only after the policy structure governing the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement is put in place.

There is little scope for further opening of the insurance sector but Holmes Murphy and Associates, which specialises in health insurance, has chosen to be a part of the team.

Lavin said the idea was to suggest “improvement in policy” and hold a “commercial dialogue to afford improvement in the business climate.”

“We would like to see a debate on ownership caps. Indian business will benefit and consumers will get better access to quality goods and services. For instance, in the financial sector and retail; we would like to see India rationalise tariffs. Tariffs on motorcycles in India are the highest in the world. The Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) worries some investors. We would like this to be addressed,” he said.

Ficci’s Amit Mitra says 46 per cent companies represented in the delegation have never been to India before. He said one of the sessions during the discussions would be on Mumbai as a regional financial centre and piracy in the entertainment sector. Most of the delegates were either CEOs or MDs of their companies, he said.

The meetings will take place in Mumbai, though later, some groups may break off and form teams to travel to other cities.

Meanwhile, within days of the US Senate endorsing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Bush administration has advised top American energy firms to start negotiations with their Indian counterparts without waiting for the final approval of the agreement.

"We have advised the US companies to start their business negotiations right away because we do not know when the final green signal comes through,” Lavin said.

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