India and Virginia strengthen economic partnerships

From left, VA Secretary Matthew Lohr, Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu, VA Secretary Caren Merrick, and FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins on June 9, 2022 at India House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Washington D.C. – Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu hosted a reception for Virginia’s cabinet members, business community executives, and faculty members of educational institutions on June 9, 2022, at India House.

Those present included VA Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Caren Dewitt Merrick, VA Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Matthew J. Lohr, along with President and CEO of Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), Victor Hoskins, Vice President of International Trade, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Stephanie Agee, Associate Director of FCEDA, Juhi Naithani, and other distinguished members of the Commonwealth.

“We have several companies, especially from Northern Virginia here today, many of them from Fairfax County. I take this opportunity to compliment Fairfax County Economic Development Authority in bringing together industry leaders in Northern Virginia. Through your work, you have also expanded commercial ties with India. A vibrant diaspora in the region — many of whom are present today have been at the forefront of this endeavor. I’m also delighted to see many small businesses this evening,” Ambassador Sandhu said.

He underscored the importance of technology to U.S.-India relations. “When I talk about tech, it is not just about economic and commercial ties, it has important strategic and security implications as well,” Sandhu noted, adding that both countries value innovation and ingenuity, and that the pandemic had only fast-tracked some of these changes, which could have taken decades otherwise. “This is where Virginia becomes important.”

Virginia is planning a trade mission to India early next year, and India will make the mission a productive one, he promised. Potential sectors of collaboration include aerospace and unmanned aerial systems as Virginia is a leader in the sector.

“We just had the largest drone festival in India, where Prime Minister Modi spoke of his vision. He wants drones to be omnipresent as mobile phones. This also has significance across sectors, from agriculture, to sports, to logistics, to telemedicine, to media and movies. We have recently announced production linked incentive schemes for drone manufacturing in India,” Sandhu said, pointing also to the recent U.S.-India launch a critical and emerging technologies initiative May 24, in Tokyo.

Trade was a robust $160 billion in 2021, as was business with 200 Indian companies present in US and over 2,000 US companies in India.

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Matthew J. Lohr, echoed Sandhu’s sentiments and the potential for cooperation, noting, “We do about $70 billion a year for agriculture here in Virginia, 330,000 Virginians are employed in the agricultural industry.”

Lohr told News India Times he looked forward to the trade mission. “It’s been a great relationship (between India and Virginia) over time and this evening is about looking for new opportunities and we’re excited to see that grow,” Lohr said,  adding that Governor Youngkin wants to explore new opportunities for export and building business relationships. “So, we think it’s a very exciting future.”

VA Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Caren Dewitt Merrick said the Youngkin administration was committed to helping  anyone doing business in Virginia, adding, “We want your business to grow and flourish. The organizing principle that we have in Virginia with our Virginia businesses is how do we get to yes, how can we help you grow.”

President and CEO of FCEDA, Victor Hoskins, also conveyed his enthusiasm for the upcoming trade mission, and the mutually beneficial relationship that Fairfax County has had with India over the years.  Fairfax County opened an office in India in 2004, and has had a” fantastic relationship” reinforcing that the future belongs to AI, data analytics, and data science, Hoskins said. More than 30 India based businesses are in Fairfax County, and are flourishing, he said. Northern Virginia is home to an estimated 100,000 people of Indian origin, one of the largest concentrations in the country,” he said.



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