US Chamber of Commerce’s US-India Business Council, Confederation of Indian Industry host Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Finance Minister, at the April 11, 2023 roundtable in Washington, D.C. Photo: Twitter @FinMinIndia

Washington, April 11: The US Chamber of Commerce’s US-India Business Council (USIBC) co-hosted India’s Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman for an exclusive member roundtable at US Chamber headquarters in Washington DC, Monday, April 11, 2023, evening in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The round table focused on how the US and India could strengthen trade and investment ties amidst a dynamic macroeconomic environment, and India’s increasingly important role as a destination for global investment.

In addition to Finance Minister Sitharaman, the roundtable was attended by Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Indian Ambassador to the United States, Ajay Seth, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, V Ananth Nageswaran, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, USIBC Board Chair Edward Knight, members of the USIBC Global Board of Directors, and representatives from companies across key sectors.

Finance Minister Sitharaman addressed the roundtable, highlighting opportunities that India, under the current government, is creating for the global industry to participate in the nation’s growth story.

In her remarks, Minister Sitharaman emphasized that policy consistency and pursuit of reforms despite the pandemic have been a hallmark of the government’s approach. The Minister highlighted the impact of digitization and economic formalization at length, stating that India meets the requirements of a fair transparent economy due to its achievements in transitioning to digital payments and integrating the informal sector. In the end, she invited the investor community to participate in and make the most of the opportunities that India has to offer, now and going forward.
The Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, also addressed the roundtable attendees and highlighted that as the President of G20, India is committed to multi-stakeholder engagement.

He said, “We are trying to be a voice not only for the people who are in the room, but those who are outside of it. The G20 is touching all stakeholders.”

Ambassador Sandhu commended the US and India’s achievement in crossing USD 190 billion in bilateral trade last year. He underscored that the Ministry of Finance seeks the business community’s ideas and candid feedback as they seek to continue progress on the economic partnership.

Ambassador Atul Keshap, Senior Vice President for South Asia and President of the US-India Business Council at the US Chamber of Commerce spoke on the optimism that industry has on India’s reform trajectory: “It was an honor to host India’s Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman, at the US Chamber of Commerce. We have seen some great achievements on the liberalisation agenda during her tenure–our members are optimistic that continued momentum can yield more concrete results in the ease of doing business and improving India’s investment environment and deal flow that can help boost India’s GDP and the well-being of all of its people.”

R. Dinesh, President Designate of the Confederation of Indian Industry said, “Policy consistency and the speed of reforms have helped India become the world’s fastest-growing major economy even amidst this global turmoil.”

Dinesh’s remarks highlighted how the last Union Budget’s focus on MSMEs and capital expenditure has put India on a stronger economic footing and applauded the Finance Ministry’s ability to sustain an increase in capital expenditure while managing the current account deficit. He also recognized the government’s efforts to reduce logistics costs stating that “The Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti Initiative is creating a virtuous cycle, supporting the growth of the economy while also tackling the cost of doing business.”

Todd Skinner, President, International of TransUnion, welcomed the Finance Minister to the US Chamber of Commerce and emphasized the importance of industry consultations like the roundtable to facilitating international investment: “The Government of India’s dialogue with the private sector shows that it understands business can be a critical partner in India’s economic and social development. TransUnion is focused on helping to achieve these goals and working closely with the Finance Ministry, especially in efforts to establish a national financial information registry that supports expanded access to credit.”

Guru Bandekar, Global Vice President of Supply Chain Management at Carrier, discussed India’s importance as one of the key markets and potential growth areas for its HVAC and cold chain solutions. Additionally, he expressed the company’s desire to strengthen its business capabilities in India. He said, “Carrier continues to look at India as a strategic market to drive innovation and develop world-class products. We continue to explore opportunities to build upon our long-standing presence in the Indian market.”

Bandekar also mentioned Carrier’s interest in continued consultation with the government in regard to trade facilitation.

Industry executives had exchanges with the Finance Minister where they raised opportunities to enhance further India’s investment ecosystem, including policies that could deepen India’s capital markets and enable Indian start-ups to tap global investment via direct overseas listings. The potential of India’s digital public infrastructure such as its Unified Payments Interface was a recurring theme, especially when it encourages and complements private sector innovation. Several companies expressed support for frameworks that would allow the private sector to leverage digital payments data to expand financial inclusion and develop new financial products and credit instruments for the Indian market.

USIBC has highlighted the simplification of Know-Your-Customer processes and the establishment of a national financial information registry as critical actions that could further develop India’s standard-setting FinTech ecosystem.

Earlier this year, USIBC commended several provisions of the Finance Minister’s 2023 Union Budget announcement, including the significant increase in capital expenditure, investments into transportation infrastructure, reductions in certain customs levies, and sending dedicated help to India achieve its energy security objectives. The Council underscored that these initiatives, combined with reforms to simplify the indirect tax structure, reduce compliance burden, and promote more efficient tax administration, will continue to make India a more attractive place to do business.



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