CHENNAI: Good Evening. Dr. Rajan Natarajan, Deputy Secretary of State of Maryland, Chamber President, senior officials, and distinguished members of the Tamil Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It is my great pleasure to be here tonight, and have the opportunity to meet with you.
We are so very lucky to be alive right here, right now at the beginning of a new U.S.-Indian relationship. Twenty years ago, nobody would have gotten very excited about an Indian-U.S. trade conference, there were still too many obstacles in the way. Twenty years from now, Indian-US trade will be taken for granted and seen as a perfectly natural, mutually beneficial engine of growth for our two economies. Right now we have the opportunity to work together to build this new relationship. We can say to future generations, we were there at the beginning.
The momentum is building. Over the past seven years our bilateral trade in goods has expanded from some $26 billion to over $63 billion. Last year U.S. exports to India were $22 billion dollars, while India’s exports to the U.S. were nearly twice as much, at almost $42 billion. And when we add in the trade in services, our bilateral trade relationship is already nearing the $100 billion mark. Vice President Biden’s goal of reaching $500 billion does not seem like such an impossible dream.
The United States is one of India’s largest foreign direct investors. The official statistics show U.S. investment in India at $28 billion, a 500% increase from a decade ago. The top 50 U.S. companies in India employ over 500,000 Indians, many in high-paying, high-tech and manufacturing jobs.
Today, India is the fourth fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the United States, and is already supporting thousands of U.S. jobs. We want more Indian businesses to be part of this growing relationship and we see great opportunities for growth by expanding partnerships between small and medium sized companies throughout our two great countries. To help us reach out to Indian businesses, the U.S. Mission has a large, interagency team working in multiple locations.
Our Commercial Officer – John Fleming covers all five states in South India. He is the lead agency for our Select USA initiative that helps companies navigate the regulations and utilize the incentives for investing in America. His office also provides Business Matchmaking services, helps organize buyer delegations to the U.S., and provides Trade Finance Support. In fact, John wanted to be here tonight, but he is with his team in Madurai working with our American Business Corner partners there doing just the kind of activities that I’ve been talking about.
While the U.S. Commercial service has the lead on commercial activities, all of the U.S. Consulate General Chennai sections help support this priority objective. We understand that a major component of facilitating trade is facilitating travel and transparency in doing business. Our Visa Section works hand-in-hand with our Commercial Service to facilitate legitimate business travel to the United States – and our consular officers regularly meet with Chambers of Commerce like yours and businesses in South India to demystify the visa process.
Today, the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai is the 13th busiest visa post in the world, and we are number one in the world for professional worker (H and L) visas. Over half of the 230,000 visas we issued last year were for professional work and business travel to the United States.
We also promote tourism travel to the United States – one of President Obama’s top priorities. The U.S is an outstanding destination for companies looking for a special place to hold company meetings and conventions. We have placed a special focus on facilitating travel for purposes of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions – which we’ve abbreviated as MICE travel.
Like India, America is a continent-sized country with tremendous diversity in geography and locations – from Hawaii’s beaches to the Las Vegas nightlife to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. A U.S. destination makes it easy to combine business with great tourism opportunities. If you or your company is thinking about holding a company event in the U.S., our Commercial Service can provide you with excellent contacts to help you select just the right location and arrange an unforgettable event.
Nothing is more important for the long term growth and success of our two economies, than educating our youth and promoting bilateral educational exchanges. As business people, you know better than I the importance of ensuring a well-trained, professional work force.
Under the U.S.-India strategic dialogue, our countries have placed a priority on educational partnerships and exchanges. Each year, India and the U.S. are funding exchanges for over a hundred scholars through our Fulbright-Nehru grants. In fact, India is our largest program for Fulbright research scholars.
In South India, the number of students of all types travelling to the U.S. for higher education grew by another 15% this year. We are pleased that more than 100,000 Indians currently study in the United States. We have great educational resources at the U.S. Consulate General – and we’re lucky to have on site, expert student advising through the U.S.-India Educational Foundation – which is collocated with our library.
So if you, or someone you know, are seeking more information about U.S. educational opportunities, I encourage you or them to contact the U.S.-India Educational Foundation and visit our on-line resources. I once again thank the President and the Chamber for inviting me to be with you tonight, and we look forward to working with you. Thank you.