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US-India CEO Forum to kick off Strategic & Commercial Dialogue

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Washington:  In order to discuss the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the two countries, US-India CEO Forum meets here on Monday prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third summit with President Barack Obama next week.

As India and the US have set a goal of increasing their bilateral trade five fold to $500 million in five years, the US Commerce Department is hosting the CEO Forum to increase the role of the private sector in the India-US engagement.

The CEO Forum is the primary mechanism for engaging the US and Indian private sectors and leveraging business leaders’ recommendations to shape policy making discussions.

As part of the CEO Forum, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will host an event – US-India Economic Ties: Ready for Takeoff? – on Monday featuring a discussion between US and Indian CEOs on efforts to deepen bilateral economic engagement.

Indian Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker who are leading the commercial side of the dialogue will address the CEOs before their discussion.

Indian CEOs joining the discussion would be Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon, Cyrus P. Mistry, chairman of Tata Sons, and Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises.

From the US side Michael S. Burke, chairman and CEO of AECOM, David M. Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell, and Charles R. Kaye, co-chief executive officer of Warburg Pincus would be participating.

W. James McNerney, Jr., chairman of the board of the Boeing Company, will moderate the discussion.

Later on Monday evening, US Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will headline a conclave of corporate America.

Other high-ranking government officials as also captains of industry from both countries, will also address the US-India Business Council’s 40th Annual Leadership Summit.

The strategic side of the dialogue will begin with a ministerial plenary Tuesday co-chaired by Swaraj and Kerry.

Other engagements include an Energy Dialogue led by Power Minister Piyush Goyal and US Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, an official level Health Dialogue and a meeting of India-US Joint Working Group on Climate Change.

Modi and Obama had decided to expand the existing Strategic Dialogue to the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue during the US President’s January visit to India to reflect the growing significance of the US-India economic relationship.

Modi himself lands in New York on Wednesday, a day after Indian and US teams wrap up the dialogue.

He will be meeting Obama the following Monday in New York after wooing investors in New York and a weekend trip to the Silicon Valley focusing on three key themes of entrepreneurship and innovation, digital economy and renewable energy.

The Sep 28 summit would thus be capping eight days of intense India-US engagement on both political and commercial planes.

With inputs from IANS

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)