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Bush, Manmohan Singh hold talks with CEOs

Top corporate heads of India and US gave their wish list to PM and Bush to remove obstacles to free flow of trade.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 14:02 IST

Top corporate heads of India and the US on Thursday gave their wish list to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush to remove obstacles to free flow of trade and investment between the two countries.

Tata Sons chief Ratan Tata and JP Morgan Chase chairman William Harrison - co-chairs of the CEOs Forum set up last year - submitted their report to the two leaders that also specifies a road map to remove roadblocks in the way of enhancing bilateral trade and investment relations.

"Some of the recommendations have already been reflected in the decisions taken by us today," said Manmohan Singh, addressing these corporate leaders jointly with Bush, at Hyderabad House.

The CEOs Forum, set up during Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington last year, has 10 members each from the two sides and was tasked with finding ways to boost bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries.

Some of the representatives of the American side have such clout that they can pick up the phone and speak directly with Bush and key administration officials, or ranking lawmakers.

Besides Tata, the Indian side on the forum includes Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, Y.C. Deveshwar of ITC, Ashok Ganguly of ICICI OneSource, Deepak Parekh of HDFC and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon.

Its other members are Analjit Singh of Max group, Nandan Nilekani of Infosys, Prathap C. Reddy of Apollo Hospitals and Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge.

The US side includes Paul Hanrahan of AES Power to represent the energy sector, Stanley Warren of Cargil for agriculture and Charles O Prince of Citibank, who along with Harrison, represents financial services.

Additionally, David Coat of Honeywell is for the hi-tech sector, Harold McGraw of McGraw Hill for publishing, Steve Reinemund of Pepsi for retail trade, Thomas J O'Neill of Parsons for infrastructure, Christopher Rodrigues of Visa for card services and Anne M Mulcahy of Xerox for manufacturing.

The CEOs were earlier feted Wednesday by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath who played hosted a dinner at his residence to coincide with Bush's three-day visit to this country.

The guests at the dinner included US National Economic Council Director Allan Hubbard, US Trade Representative Rob Portman, his deputy Karan Bhatia, and the 10 members from the US side on the CEOs Forum.

Indian invitees included Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia - the point person on bilateral economic issues with Hubbard - and the Indian representatives on the CEOs Forum.

"There was a unanimity in the informal discussions that both sides should change their mindsets and lift our trade and economic ties to a new level that befits the vast potential," Apollo Hospital Group chairman Prathap C Reddy said.

"On merchandise trade alone, it was decided that our annual bilateral engagement should be doubled over the next three years to over $40 billion," Reddy, who is a member of the forum representing healthcare, said after the dinner.

A mention was also made that while the US is India's biggest trade partner with a 16.48 percent share, India accounted for only 1.06 per cent of America's total exports and imports.

During a meeting with Kamal Nath earlier, Portman underlined the potential for pushing the trade volumes between the two countries and said USA's merchandise trade with China alone was valued at $300 billion annually, officials said.

In sharp contrast, America's trade with India - covering both goods and services - was in the region of a mere $30 billion last year.

The talks also reviewed the progress of the India-US Trade Policy Forum that had first met in November last year, as also on the current round of negotiations of the world Trade Organisation, agriculture, trade barriers and services.

A meeting was also held of the India-US Economic Dialogue, co-chaired by Hubbard and Ahluwalia, to review the progress made in the initiatives launched in 2001 to push trade and investment and collaborations in environment and finance.

The meeting was also attended by US Under Secretary of State Josette Shiner and Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran followed by a lunch hosted by Ahluwalia.

The CEOs had come ahead of Bush, who arrived in New Delhi Wednesday evening after making a stopover in Kabul.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 12:21 IST