Happy New Year! I want to thank each of you for your partnership and commitment to USIBC over the past year, and share our rigorous agenda for the coming months. In the midst of a highly charged election season in India and a partial government shutdown in the United States, USIBC is continuing our work to support members’ priorities and operations.
We are kicking off 2019 with a reception at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for incoming Ambassador of India to the United States Harsh Shringla, his first industry engagement in Washington. I had the privilege of working with Ambassador Shringla during my time as Assistant Secretary, and look forward to partnering with him to help take the U.S.-India relationship to new heights under his leadership.
Focus on State Engagements
With state engagement as a major focus for the year ahead, USIBC is taking a delegation to Vibrant Gujarat from January 18-20. Led by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, the delegation includes a number of Kentucky businesses and officials from Arizona and Indiana. USIBC has also been tapped to host the Vibrant Gujarat U.S. Country Seminar, featuring key U.S. industry leaders and GOI officials, where we will unveil a joint USIBC-KPMG report on the future of the U.S.-India Partnership. The report is in response to a request from Prime Minister Modi during his meeting with the USIBC Executive Delegation in September.
Next month, USIBC will take a delegation to Kolkata and the Bengal Global Business Summit from February 6-7. The delegation will be helmed by leaders from the USIBC India Advisory Council, and feature a strong contingent from North Carolina. Delegates include North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Mayor TJ Cawley, as well as university, chamber of commerce and industry representatives from the state. This is an excellent opportunity to engage with some of the heavyweights in West Bengal politics and industry who are likely to emerge as key players in national politics. I encourage interested members to join me in Kolkata and other USIBC state and city engagement opportunities in the coming year.
Hot Topics in Trade & Commerce:
Managing Ongoing Trade Friction: USIBC continues to engage on a broad range of trade irritants, including price control policies and ICT tariffs, data localization requirements, and market access barriers for U.S. products entering the Indian market. We support India’s eligibility for GSP benefits, but have delivered a consistent message to the GOI that reforms are crucial to maintain a healthy trade relationship. We are watching closely as both sides stake out their positions in advance of the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue and the U.S.-India CEO Forum, slated for late February. (Note: Schedule of the talks is contingent on resolution of the U.S. government’s partial shutdown.) The forums will provide further opportunities to engage with top policymakers on trade issues.
New RBI Leadership & Upcoming Budget: USIBC will meet with new Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das and Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Ajay Tyagi in Mumbai on January 22. Coming just ahead of the Union Budget release on February 1, our discussion will focus on members’ priority issues. We expect the newly formed RBI digital payments panel – led by Nandan Nilekani – to be an critical point of engagement for members with digital payment equities, given its role in evaluating the national strategy for increasing digital payments in India.
AeroIndia & Defense Procurement: We are organizing a delegation to AeroIndia in Bangalore next month, focusing on Indian Defense Procurement Policy reforms. Focus areas for delegates include implementation of the “Strategic Partnership” concept, CAATSA and technology transfer challenges associated with ongoing Russia defense trade, the Industrial Security Annex to GSOMIA and implementation of COMCASA.
Good News in Medical Device Pricing: In a welcome move for the life sciences industry, the GOI lifted price caps on innovative and orphan drugs, giving Indian patients access to drugs that are currently only available outside the country. While medical device pricing remains a broader concern and an important point for advocacy for our members, there are some noteworthy developments, including the formation of the National Medical Devices Promotion Council under DIPP. The Council will act as a promotion and developmental body for the Indian medical device industry and make recommendations to government based on industry feedback and global best practices to strengthen the medical technology sector.
Advocacy on E-Commerce: USIBC continues to engage GOI officials on the issues created by new limits on FDI in B2B e-commerce, as well as the harmful implications of Press Note 2 (PN2) 2018, which places additional restrictions on B2C and inventory-based models. These new regulatory requirements follow the recent $16 billion purchase of Flipkart by Walmart, as well as significant new investments by a variety of other U.S. companies in India’s e-commerce sector. USIBC has formally submitted a set of recommendations to the GOI, urging the government to ensure a level playing field for e-commerce companies and permit 51 percent FDI, so U.S. and Indian companies can partner in providing world class solutions to merchants and customers and ensure long-term and stable industry growth.
As always, please reach out to me with any questions or feedback. We look forward to connecting with you in the new year to discuss how USIBC can best serve your company and your priorities.