US commerce secretary returns to Mumbai for business opportunities

 | February 11,2011 10:52 am IST

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke kept his promise to Mumbai - he returned to the city three months after visiting it along with President Barack Obama last November with the objective of giving a fillip to bilateral trade and business.


In a day packed with high-powered engagements, Locke met the captains of Indian business and industry, including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and others who are part of the US-India CEO Forum.

The meetings served as a follow-up to pick up the progress achieved during President Obama's trip. Locke solicited the group's goals for the 2011 Forum, besides discussing several critical issues like clean energy, standards and education.


Earlier Thursday, addressing the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), Locke stressed on US-India commercial relationship and encouraged development of new business opportunities.


Locke also highlighted the significant progress India has made in opening its markets to US companies but felt that a lot more needed to be done in this direction.


"If India continues its walk down the path of reform, if it continues to become more open to the investments and the innovations of foreign companies - like the 24 companies I have with me this week - it will stand a much better chance of meeting the needs of its people and of helping to lead the global economy in the 21st century," Locke remarked.


He pointed out that important progress was achieved this week, not just to lay the groundwork for more sales of US goods in India, but to take another real step towards strengthening the bonds between the governments, the businesses and the people of the two countries.


Later Thursday afternoon, Locke also delivered the keynote address at the National Association of Software and Service Companies' (Nasscom) India Leadership Forum.


The forum is one of the flagship events for the tech industry in India where business leaders from more than 20 countries are taking part to share their views and strategies and discuss the opportunities and challenges for the tech sector.


Locke's is the first secretary-led business development mission to India since 1997 and he is the first cabinet secretary visiting India since President Obama's visit in November 2010.


The Locke mission served to advance President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI) which aims to double US exports by 2015 and support several million US jobs.


The pace of trade between the US and India is accelerating. Between 2002 and 2009, US goods export to India quadrupled - growing from $4.1 billion to more than $16.4 billion.


Till November 2010, US merchandise exports to India totalled $17.6 billion, notching a growth of 17 percent from the same period in 2009.


With economic growth estimates at about 9.7 percent in 2010, India is a key market for achieving the Obama administration's export goal.


Locke is accompanied by a high-level delegation of 24 US businesses looking for collaborations in civil nuclear energy, civil aviation, defence and homeland security and information and communications technology in India.