Vice President Mike Pence presses India for speedier economic reform, praises Indian-American community

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Vice President Mike Pence. (Official Photo: White House)

Vice President Michael Pence told a gathering of business leaders it was imperative that trade with India be balanced and measures be taken by the Modi government to further open India for ease of business.

Speaking at the annual U.S.-India Business Council meeting June 27, in Washington, D.C., Pence often quoted President Donald Trump’s just-ended bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to praise the deepening national security, counterterrorism, business, economic and military cooperation between the two democracies.

The bottom line is the United States and India can deepen our commercial bond in many industries and areas, Pence said, “But to achieve the highest possible benefit, I would suggest with great respect that India must continue to enact the necessary economic reforms to ensure that our trade relationship, as the President said last night over dinner, is both “fair and reciprocal.””

While congratulating Modi for bringing in the Goods and Services Tax, GST, his attempts to strengthen intellectual property protections, cut tariffs on manufactured and agricultural goods and break down barriers to investment and market access, Pence qualified, “But we truly believe with great respect that the time to act is now — because progress in these areas means progress for both our great nations and the more than 1.6 billion people that call them home.”

This was the 42nd Annual Leadership Summit of the U.S. – India Business Council.

President Trump recognizes that the United States’ relationship with India is one of the most important strategic relationships in the 21st century, Pence said. Not only are India and the U.S. bound by friendship and commerce, but “we’re partners in the fight against global terrorism and as brothers-and-sisters in the cause of freedom and our commitment to democracy,” and promised that under a Trump administration, “our friendship will grow deeper, our partnership will grow stronger.”

Pence noted the increase in two-way trade from $20 billion a year twenty years ago, to $115 billion today, noting that “U.S. exports to India now support roughly 200,000 American jobs.” Meanwhile, American direct investment in India has grown from $800 million in 2014 to $2.4 billion today.

“And on the other side of the ledger, Indian businesses I’m glad to report are investing in America at an unprecedented rate,” Pence said, drawing attention to the recent announcement by Infosys that it would be hiring 10,000 new American workers at four U.S.-based technology centers, one of which is in Pence’s state of Indiana. He hoped President Trump’s steps to increase investment in infrastructure and other sectors would attract more Indian business investment.

Pence said American companies are poised to further expand their investments in India’s infrastructure development, its airline industry and the energy sector, apart from security and defense.

Indian-Americans

Pence gave a shout-out to the Indian-American community in his speech as well noting that some 4 million Americans trace their heritage back to India already, as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, or as first-generation immigrants themselves.

“And truth be told, their impact on America has made a profound difference in the life of our nation, and we celebrate that,” Pence said, urging a round of applause for the community.

“For generations, you Indian Americans have raised your families, built businesses, studied and taught in our colleges and universities, made your own mark, large and small, and been an inexorably vital part of the beautiful tapestry of American life.   And we celebrate it,” Pence said.

He expressed pride that the first cabinet-level appointee of Indian origin, Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, had been chosen by President Trump.