Avoid protectionism, Indian businessmen tell US

March 19th, 2009 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 19 (IANS) Captains of Indian and American industries have pledged to work together for the revival of the world economy while fighting growing calls of protectionism in either country.

The calls for India and the US to further strengthen economic ties amid the global economic crisis came at a panel discussion here Wednesday on “India and the US: Partners in the Global Economic Recovery”.

Leading a high level delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal said India will be one of the strong partners with the US to help in the revival of the economy.

Noting that the meteoric rise of India in the last decade was unparalleled in the world barring perhaps China, he sought more investment in infrastructure, high technology, education and health care sectors.

By doing so American business would not only be helping a social cause but themselves too as India provided a huge untapped market.

Mittal said it will not be the US, which will resolve the crisis, but without the US it was not possible. One may keep cribbing that the crisis originated in the US, but no other country can match it in resources and it will have to do the most.

Asking the US to resist the temptation of protectionism, he said: “This is the fountainhead of free trade and a wrong signal coming out of the US would have a catastrophic effect.”

Noting that only a few bastions remained to fall in India, Mittal said moves like barring job access to H-1B holders and restricting free flow of persons and trade would only strengthen the hands of those opposing reforms in India and derail the process of moving forward.

Opening the discussion, former US Ambassador to India Frank Wisner pledged to be in the front and centre of those to counter calls for limiting job access and erecting trade barriers in a growing India-US relationship.

Cautioning against falling prey to the temptation of protectionism in these tough times, he said the historic India-US civil nuclear deal had opened the way for taking their relationship to a new level.

As they move forward on the newly chartered territory of public-private partnership in areas like agriculture, energy security and climate change that are important to both sides, Wisner pledged to be vigilant and in the forefront in efforts to roll back calls for protectionism.

US India Business Council president Ron Somers said the private sectors in both countries have the heavy responsibility to stay the course in a rough patch and keep India-US commercial relations at the centre stage as they work together for the recovery of global economy.

In building bridges with the new administration, the high level CII delegation Wednesday met President Barack Obama’s top economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, and his deputy national security advisor.

They are also scheduled to meet World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg.

Earlier Tuesday they met former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Harold McGraw, chairman and CEO of he McGraw-Hill Companies, a leading global information services provider, and thought leaders like former US ambassador to India Richard Celeste and Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs under President Bill Clinton.

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