Good afternoon and welcome. I would like to thank Minister Piyush Goyal, Chairman Ashwani Lohani, and Principal Executive Director for Infrastructure S.K. Mishra for hosting us at Rail Bhavan. We are honored to be here today, and I am grateful that so many of your distinguished colleagues could join us for this discussion.
I would also like to thank the U.S. Commercial Service team, which co-organized today’s event. Acting Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs Aileen Nandi and her colleagues worked closely with your Ministry to develop today’s program. Aileen will lead our continuing engagement on these important matters.
Representatives of 13 U.S. companies have joined us today, bringing the best of American rail innovation and technology to India and the region. In a moment, I will ask each of the representatives to introduce him or herself.
U.S. Innovation and Partnership
As a result of the expansive geographies of the United States and India, and the role that railways have played in the history and development of our two countries, we share a common interest in rail technology and innovation. We both care deeply about maximizing operational efficiencies, upgrading track capacity and maintenance, and ensuring the safety and security of rail passengers and our communities.
U.S. companies are committed to the long-term success of the Indian market and to supporting India’s rail infrastructure. Some have established a local presence through joint ventures and local manufacturing. All seek to be involved in deepening the cooperation between our rail sectors, so as to bring expertise, technology, local employment, and supply chain development to India’s railway system.
In addition to harnessing world-class technology for traditional rail equipment, many U.S. companies utilize innovations in energy efficiency and telecommunications technology. These are essential for modernizing rail terminals and improving the overall passenger experience. In fact, U.S. industry is eager to participate in your international tenders, and some companies have already submitted bids in response to your announcements.
One of the defining characteristics of U.S. technology is durability, which ensures value and a demonstrated cost-savings over the life-cycle of the asset. We would therefore urge the Indian team to give strong consideration to life-cycle cost – rather than simply lowest-cost – as a basis for project evaluation.
Ongoing Collaboration and Engagement
We welcome the opportunity to begin a dialogue between the Ministry of Railways and U.S. industry, and the sharing of best practices on railway operational matters. We understand the important role that the Ministry plays in the development of India’s rail industry, and we are interested in hearing your outlook and priorities for the coming years.
We are also pleased that the Ministry has indicated an interest in learning about issues that, in our view, negatively affect the business environment for the rail industry. We commend you for your efforts to seek resolution to these challenges. We request your support to ensure a level playing field for foreign companies to participate in open tenders; to consider a company’s global reputation for quality and honoring of contracts; and, as just noted, to consider life-cycle costs rather than lowest cost in the evaluation of bids.
U.S. companies operating in India have also shared some concerns with domestic companies, such as those related to delayed approvals for engineering designs, non-conformity with international rail industry standards, and payment terms. Procurement-related issues tend to disadvantage foreign companies, as they frequently contain local content requirements or technology transfer without reasonable compensation. If potential caps on royalty fees are indeed being considered by the Government of India, it could be a strong disincentive for foreign companies to engage in Make-in-India programs.
To facilitate partnership and collaboration on public and private levels, our representative from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will share the details of our Global Freight Rail Initiative, which facilitates the exchange of best practices across the industry and funds feasibility studies for rail projects. Invitations for international delegations to visit U.S. rail facilities of interest can also be funded through this program.
In addition, we would like to underscore our interest in working toward the harmonization of international rail standards, and the joint recognition of testing and certification procedures. Certainly, with the possibility of exporting rolling stock manufactured by local joint ventures to third markets where Western standards of safety and efficiency are widely known and well-accepted, streamlining the certification and testing process makes good business sense for all.
In conclusion, our hope is that today’s meeting is not a single event, but rather the first in a series of ongoing discussions. Indeed, one of our goals for today is to map out a long-term engagement strategy, and to explore future exchanges of ideas with U.S. rail operators, equipment testing facilities, and researchers who develop rail standards in the United States.
Thank you again, Minister Goyal, for hosting this discussion. Let me now ask each of the U.S. company representatives to provide a brief introduction, and to share an idea or comment for further discussion.