Obama Announces Repeat India Visit

For the first time, an American President will be the Chief Guest at India’s national day parade on Monday, January 26, 2015 (known as Republic Day in India). It will also be the first time in history that a sitting American President will have visited India twice. (President Clinton has been to India a number of times after he left office).

I was part of President Obama’s executive trade mission when he traveled to Mumbai and Delhi during Diwali 2010 and he spent more time in India than in any other foreign country until then. While some major trade initiatives around nuclear energy have not moved at all since then, bilateral trade between the two countries has risen rapidly since and is touching $100 billion now. I have predicted a continuing acceleration of such trade for a number of years and if the momentum continues, India could well rise to become one of America’s top six trading partners in a decade.

India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his government are in a hurry to expand India’s role on the global stage; he has reached out to Japan, Australia and Israel among others, but the world’s largest economy remains the biggest prize.

But by stepping off Air Force One on a foggy January morning at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, President Obama takes the US-India relationship to a new level. The White House has not yet provided details of the trip. All we have seen are terse announcements from Washington and New Delhi on Friday. Stay tuned for further implications as the trip details get flushed out.

November 24, 2014   1 Comment

Arun Kumar confirmed by the Senate to lead Commercial Service

The U.S. Senate has confirmed yet another Indian American nominee of President Barack Obama to lead the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Commerce Department charged with helping U.S. companies succeed in markets around the world.

Kerala University physics graduate Arun M. Kumarwas confirmed to be assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service by a voice vote March 12. A resident of Los Altos, California, Kumar holds an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and led KPMG/s India practice from his Silicon Valley base until his retirement last year. In this new role, Kumar is responsible for promoting American exports all over the world and manages a staff of Commercial Officers spread across America and the globe.

March 31, 2014   No Comments

President Obama appoints Hindi speaking Ambassador to India

Former Congressman Dr. Tim Roemer is returning to the USA from his two years as the US Ambassador to India. Replacing him in New Delhi will be Los Angeles native and bow-tie wearing Dr. A. Peter Burleigh.  A distinguished career U.S. Foreign Service officer who served as Ambassador and Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations before he retired after 33 years of service in August 2000, Burleigh needs to be approved by the Senate.  Prior to his U.N. post, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives (1995-1997).

A. Peter Burleigh, US-Ambassador designate to India

Dr. Peter Burleigh, new US Ambassador-designate

Ambassador Burleigh held a number of senior positions at the State Department and served in United States embassies in Nepal, Bahrain, and India, as well as Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Burleigh received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University, served in the Peace Corps (1963-1965) in Nepal, doing community development work in the far west of that country, and spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship in Nepal.  Ambassador Burleigh speaks Bengali and Hindi. He is the first US Ambassador to India to be fluent in the language.  He lived Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a number of years and  served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Miami. He is also one of the first open gay members of the US diplomatic corps; some in India may find that controversial in a country that technically outlaws homosexuality, based on Victorian British era laws. Burleigh was posted in New Delhi from April to July 2009 as charge d’affairs in the US Embassy New Delhi.

Ambassador A Peter Burleigh in 2009 at Osmania U while CDA

At Osmania University, Hyderabad, India in 2009

What this means

The first US ambassador to have considerable South Asia experience and certainly the first to speak Hindi will be an asset. But some may argue that his lack of recent prominence means that India is fading in importance to the Obama administration. I am reluctant to draw that conclusion, let us give Amb Burleigh a few months to engage in his role and then judge how it goes.

June 15, 2011   No Comments

Secretary Gary Locke talks up National Export Initiative in Los Angeles

In 2010 American exports to Asia exceeded shipments to the Europe for the first time ever. Yesterday, I met U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke who was in Los Angeles to promote President Obama’s  National Export Initiative (NEI), which seeks to double American exports to $2 trillion by 2014.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Business Outlook conference, Locke said exports now supported 10 million jobs in America, including 700,000 in California. One in three manufacturing jobs and one in five agricultural jobs in the United States were tied directly to exports. In addition, exports were a key driver of economic recovery in the past two years, accounting for nearly half U.S. economic growth since 2009, according to Locke.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke with Amritt MD Gunjan Bagla

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and me

In my work at Amritt, my colleagues and I are vigorous supporters of the NEI. In fact the topic of my talk at the same conference was how to increase exports to India five-fold not just two-fold; we believe that this is quite doable.

Secretary Locke, the first Chinese American to hold a cabinet post, is expected to become the next U.S. Ambassador to China  by June of this year.

Takeaway: Asia and India in particular is hugely important to America’s economic engine going forward.

March 31, 2011   No Comments

To Samalkot from Schenectady, Obama mentions India again at General Electric plant

When I was part of the Presidential Executive Mission to India last November,  General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney flanked Barack Obama in his first public appearances in Mumbai.  Immelt’s  GE Energy unit had just won its largest order  in India to supply  six gas turbines, three steam turbines and generators for a 2,400 megawatt power plants being built by billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy in the small town of Samalkota, Andhra Pradesh.

Last month, President Obama was at General Electric’s plant where these turbines are being built. Here is what he had to say

That’s why I traveled to India a few months ago — and Jeff was there with us — where our businesses were able to reach agreement to export $10 billion in goods and services to India.  And that’s going to lead to another 50,000 jobs here in the United States.  (Applause.)  Part of the reason I wanted to come to this plant is because this plant is what that trip was all about.  As part of the deal we struck in India, GE is going sell advanced turbines — the ones you guys make — to generate power at a plant in Samalkot, India — Samalkot, India.  Most of you hadn’t heard of Samalkot — (laughter) — but now you need to know about it, because you’re going to be selling to Samalkot, India.  And that new business halfway around the world is going to help support more than 1,200 manufacturing jobs and more than 400 engineering jobs right here in this community — because of that sale.  (Applause.)

So it’s a perfect example of why promoting exports is so important.  That’s why I’ve set a goal of doubling American exports within five years.  And we’re on track to do it.  We’re already up 18 percent and we’re just going to keep on going, because we’re going to sell more and more stuff all around the world.  (Applause.)   When a company sells products overseas, it leads to hiring on our shores.  The deal in Samalkot means jobs in Schenectady.  That’s how we accelerate growth.

I have maintained that exports from America are crucial to the recovery. Exports to India can go up by 500 percent or more in five years, if governments are supportive. This is good for poor farmers in near Samalkot whose children can’t get light to study at night. It is good for engineers in New York.  Let’s make it happen, friends.

February 5, 2011   No Comments