Remarks by Secretary Pompeo at the India Ideas Summit & 44th Annual Meeting of USIBC

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone.  Thanks for having me here.  I certainly want to thank the India Ideas Summit, U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue, as well as the USIBC President Nisha Biswal for inviting me to address this esteemed group.  I want to also acknowledge Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin – where are you at?  Right there.

You know it’s bilateral; I saw on the program today not only Matt but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, so we got a bipartisan agenda.  It’s fantastic.

I was asked if I would come speak here.  It turns out to be perfect timing as I’m going to be traveling to India before too long, and I get the opportunity to be here with a real group of leaders from both the United States and India.  And I know you’ve had a great visit so far, it’s been good progress.  I understand that you’ve been having deep, important conversations among you about one of the most important global events of our day, something with major potential to change the world, deep international events that capture the attention of billions and billions of people.

Of course, that’s the Cricket World Cup.  (Laughter.)

It’s a serious matter today, so all jokes aside, it’s great to see so many Indian and American businesspeople coming together to talk about how to draw our two nations closer together, and to talk about big ideas.  That project has been in the forefront of my mind too, after the election in preparation for my upcoming trip.

It was great.  We planned the trip, and then the Indian news broke the story, so that was great – exactly as we had planned it.  I’ll have the incredible privilege to meet again with Prime Minister Modi and my new counterpart, too, Minister for External Affairs Jaishankar, and heads of industry and other people.  I’ll be in India for a bit.

And I want to give you a little bit of a preview, a sneak preview of my mission, and tell you why I truly believe that our two nations have an incredibly unique opportunity to move forward together, for the good of both of our peoples, the Indo-Pacific region, and indeed the entire world.

The idea of a U.S.-India partnership frankly stretches back a long way.  It’s not a new idea; you all know that.  When the Indian people first courageously won their independence over 70 years ago, a strong relationship between our countries was something people talked about.  Our two democracies and a close relationship seemed inevitable, a matter of “when” not “if.”

But for too long – indeed, for decades – we found ourselves on different trajectories.  The United States was fighting the Cold War.

And India was asserting itself, its newfound, cherished independence through its non-aligned movement, trying not to take sides.  We cooperated when we could, but frankly I think most would agree that we mostly fell short of our potential.

We couldn’t trade much because India had a closed economy.  The License Raj kept businesses and innovators out of the black and covered in red tape.

Five-year plans became the received wisdom, something like our 2 percent growth here in the last administration became sort of a new normal.  We focused our attention on other Asian trading partners, and what were once cubs grew up to be true tigers in the region.

But all that changed in 1991, when India opened its doors to the world.  Prime Minister Rao said that at the time his government would, quote, “sweep the cobwebs of the past and usher in change.”

India’s free-market reforms unleashed the innovation, the entrepreneurship, the sheer drive of its own people to do remarkable things.  Meg talked about some of the things that happened; they’re worth recounting.

First, we’ve had 7 percent growth in India from 1997 to 2017, year-on-year.  Millions of Indians have been lifted out of poverty.  India became a world leader in IT – IT services, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and so many more things that you all know so well.

U.S.-India bilateral trade reached $142 billion just last year, a seven-fold increase since 2001.

Additionally, more than 500 American companies now successfully operate in India.  And of course, the U.S. is a market for roughly 20 percent of India’s exports in both goods and services.

That prosperity, that prosperity that began to be ushered in back in 1991, has helped propel Indians to every corner of the Earth.  So many of you in the audience today are first or second-generation beneficiaries of this remarkable Indian prosperity and growth.

Indian-Americans too have contributed mightily to things that happened here in the United States.  We’ve watched Indians reach the heights of industry, and academia, and government.  People like Microsoft’s CEO, and the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a great Kansan, have done remarkable things all around the world.

U.S. Presidents of both parties have seized the opportunity to seize closer ties.  President Clinton’s visit in 2000 set a real marker, he set the table for closer cooperation between the two countries, and then President Bush inked a historic civil nuclear deal.

More recently, President Obama granted India “Major Defense Partner” status, and supported India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – a position that the United States continues to support.

And under President Trump, we’ve taken our defense cooperation to new heights, solidified our common vision for the Indo-Pacific, and taken a far tougher stand on Pakistan’s unacceptable support for terrorism in the region.

When Prime Minister Modi visited the White House back in 2017, he and President Trump exchanged a lot of good will and a couple of hugs.

Prime Minster Modi, too, said – he said it’s in India’s interests that they – that “India’s interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America.  In the same way [that] India’s development and its growing role at the international level are in the” United States of America’s interest as well.  And I certainly couldn’t agree more.

We’ve come a long way.  And now the Trump administration and the Modi administrations have an incredibly unique opportunity to take advantage of this special partnership.  We can move further.

And I want to talk about why I believe that.

Meg got this right.  Just a few weeks ago, a truly historic election – 600 million Indians voted in the largest exercise of the franchise in history.  And they gave Mr. Modi a huge mandate.

Not since 1971 has an Indian Prime Minister been returned to office with a single-party majority, and – to borrow a phrase – he enjoyed an awful lot of winning.

Many observers were surprised by the result, but, frankly, I wasn’t.  I’ve been watching closely.  My team at the State Department is watching closely.  And we knew – we knew that the prime minister was a new kind of leader for the world’s most populous democracy.  He is the son of a tea seller who worked his way up to governing a state for 13 years and now leads one of the world’s truly emerging powers.

He’s made economic development for the poorest Indians a priority.  And indeed, millions who once went without light bulbs now have electricity.  And millions who lacked cookstoves now have them.

It’s interesting – it’s interesting that young Indians constituted one of the prime minister’s largest voting blocks, one of his biggest groups of support in this most recent election.  I think that tells you something.  I think it tells you something that Indian voters think Prime Minister Modi can and will open up a new, more prosperous future for each of them.

For my part, as the Secretary of State, I know I have a strong partner, a new, great counterpart in Minister Jaishankar – a former Ambassador to the United States that most in this room know so well.

He said back in April in remarks – he said he’s ready to cultivate a warmer relationship with America – and he knows that the feeling is mutual.  We want to move ahead.

Here’s how we’re thinking about it.

First, we have to build ever-stronger relationships.  One of the great things about this gathering – indeed, in the diplomatic world – we have a long bond with India.  In fact, we’ve sent some of our finest minds to New Delhi, thinkers like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and our current ambassador, Ken Juster.

But forging stronger ties is more than that.  It means formalizing these individual friendships, building out a diplomatic framework for our two countries.  I think we’ve done that, but there’s more to do.  Last year we kicked off a 2+2 dialogue and I went to attend it alongside the Secretary of Defense.

We also reinvigorated the Quad Dialogue among the United States, Japan, and Australia – all like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific.  I’m looking forward to my meetings in Delhi next week – and of course, to the tea.

But I want to talk about a couple other things I believe we can do together.  We must embrace that strategic framework that I – that works for both of our nations.  We respect India as a truly sovereign, important country, with its own unique politics and its own unique strategic challenges.

We get it.  We realize it’s different to deal with the likes of China and Pakistan from across the ocean than it is when they are on your borders.

That’s why in this room, not so many months ago, I elaborated on President Trump’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.  It starts from the premise that we share a common set of values – the values of democracy and freedom and a core belief in the ingenuity of the human spirit.

And it’s only natural – it’s only natural that the world’s most populous democracy should partner with the world’s oldest democracy to maintain our shared vision throughout the Indo-Pacific.

We also have to make sure that we have economic openness.  We have to have a central theme being the idea that we have liberty and sovereignty in each of our two nations, and build on those ideas.  These need to be places in which economic growth reinforces our democratic values, and not dictatorship.  It needs to be a place where our partnership is one of true equals, not of domination.  Based on my conversations in New Delhi last year, and in subsequent phone calls and meetings, I believe this is a deeply shared vision.

Third, we have to deliver.  We have to execute.

The Trump administration has already enabled American companies to export more high-tech items to India.  This includes cutting-edge defense platforms like armed UAVs and ballistic missile defense systems.  We’ve already launched the Asia-EDGE program, to which Meg referred, to help India raise private capital to meet its energy and security needs for years to come.

These are solid achievements, but we want to do so much more.

We clearly have overlapping interests: defense, energy, space.  The list goes on.

On defense, the first patch – or excuse me, the first batch of Apache helicopters are coming off Boeing’s production line in Arizona even as we speak.

Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and Boeing’s F/A-18 are state-of-the-art fighters that could give India the capabilities it needs to become a full-fledged security provider throughout the Indo-Pacific.

On energy, we want to complete the Westinghouse civil nuclear project, and deliver more LNG and crude.  These steps will give Indians reliable, affordable, diversified energy independence so they will no longer have to rely on difficult regimes like those in Venezuela and in Iran.

On space, NASA is already working with the Indian Space Research Organization on the world’s most advanced earth-observation satellite and India’s second lunar mission.  I mean, how cool is that?

Now, I’m sure we’ll broach some tough topics too.  But as we democracies have come to know, that we work out our disagreements.  We bring them to the table honestly and fairly.  And we’ll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP program.

I do hope, and remain open – and we remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies.

We’ll also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy.

And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well.

Look, those are just a few things that sit on the tip of our tongue, at the top of our mind.  I can’t go into everything we’ll discuss here because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.  But suffice it to say this is a deeply important relationship, and I know that these conversations that we will continue with the new government in India that has so much promise for its people, for our relationship, and for the world – I hope together, we will finally fulfill the great promise of cooperation that was present at India’s birth and which remains evident today.

These are big ideas.  It’s what you all came here for.  And there are big opportunities too.  And I’m very much looking forward to my trip next week and meeting with Prime Minister Modi and my new counterpart face to face.

As Prime Minister Modi said in his latest campaign – he said, “Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai,” “Modi makes it possible.”  I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible between our two peoples and I’m looking forward to our conversation today, Meg.

Thank you all.  (Applause.)

MS GENTLE:  Mr. Secretary, we’re so honored to have you here today to have an open conversation.  You talked a lot about the strategic initiative, so I thought maybe we would start at the strategic level.  As you think about the Indo-Pacific region, what concerns you?  What are the challenges that we’re going to need to overcome to execute, as you say, on a lot of these new opportunities?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I talked about that actually, frankly, right here at the U.S. Chamber in my last set of remarks.  I think we’ve executed over that time pretty well, but frankly, there’s still a lot more work that remains to be done.

Look, we all know the common challenges of nations that don’t share our value sets, of nations that don’t subscribe to private – rules of private property and the rule of law and ordered liberty and all the things that both India and the United States value.  Well, what does it take for those of us who do to work together?  It takes a couple things.  It takes real trust and commitment, and that’s built through hard work, being there when times are tough and being there when times are good, recognizing that we have to develop win-win solutions between our countries.

And as I have spent time in the region over – I guess it’s now 15, 16 months as Secretary of State, I’ve watched – I’ve watched nations in the region – India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, I could go through the list – I’ve watched those countries come to recognize that we have so many things that we can work on together, so many shared opportunities that we can, in fact, deliver on them.  We have to be candid, we have to be straight, where we have disagreements we have to own them, work through them, find compromises that deliver good outcomes for every nation in the region, and then collectively – collectively begin to work in a way that will deliver growth throughout the world and for these countries throughout the Indo-Pacific for the next five, ten, twenty-five years.

MS GENTLE:  Well, and I was really encouraged to hear you go through many industries where we have economic cooperation that’s growing between the U.S. and India.  So as you think of the strategy that was laid out last year at the Chamber meeting, what are those economic priorities that you want to accomplish within that larger strategy?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I talked about a few of them today.  I didn’t tell the story – I did business in India when I – before I lost my mind and ran for Congress, I ran a small business that made machine parts for the aerospace industry.  And I spent a fair amount of time in Bangalore and in Chennai working with HAL – with Hindustan Aviation* Limited – to sell products we – a small joint venture.  I’ll tell you what.  It was tough.  India was still opening up, it was still figuring its way through, but there was a real value proposition there, and we did well.

When I think about that, when I think about what businesses need when they go to invest in each other’s countries, they need stability, they need a set of rules that they can understand, they need to make sure that the efforts that we put forward together from the United States have sufficient bipartisanship, that they won’t be whipsawed, as we have elections here.  That is, when you invest, your ROI often extends beyond any particular congress or any particular administration.

If we can do those things – and I talked about some of the fields.  It’s already happening in technology and engineers.  I know all of the amazing, brilliant Indian students that come to study in our schools at Wichita State University in my hometown, lots of amazing people doing amazing things want to come work in places where they can go make money and be successful.  They don’t care so much if it’s with an Indian company or an American company.  They want to go out and use their skillset.

If we can, at the State Department, lay the foundation for that, then I’m confident the folks in this room will knock it out of the park.  They’ll take risk, they’ll invest capital, they’ll invest capital here and in India, and we’ll grow both sides of the relationship.

MS GENTLE:  And Mr. Secretary, as you talk about the economy, you – as you would expect, I would like to talk for a minute about energy, an issue which I follow very closely.  And I hear you and others in the administration talk about the potential for energy to fuel the growth in the relationship between the U.S. and India – pardon the pun, “fuel the growth” – and LNG really has that potential to meet many of the initiatives and goals of the Modi administration for cleaner air, decarbonized economy.  So what can we as energy companies focus on that are aligned with the State Department’s strategic initiatives?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So it’s a fantastic question.  I’ve talked about this a lot.  As the Secretary of State I think it’s – I think it provides a real opportunity for American businesses, but for global growth as well.  We’ve been blessed with abundant affordable energy right here in the United States, and we’re now out producing it at enormous levels, not just crude oil but natural gas as well.

So on our side we’ve got to make sure that we build out the infrastructure that’s necessary, so that we have the infrastructure so that we can deliver it and provide these opportunities.  And then the State Department’s role is to make sure that we’re out talking about that, sharing with other countries that this is a – we can be a reliable partner for their energy.  When you make an energy investment, it’s 10 years, 20 years, 40 years that capital will be at risk, and so we need to make sure they understand we’re a reliable partner, we will – that we honor contracts, that we can deliver, that our pricing mechanisms will be right, and capital markets will work to make sure that these products can be delivered in an affordable method.  And when we do that, I think we can fuel growth in lots of places in the world, and I think India is a great example.  They can have a fully diversified energy portfolio where they don’t have to rely on nations that aren’t as reliable as the United States and have good outcomes, outcomes that their business leaders can count on, and frankly that Americans thinking about investing in India can count on as well.

MS GENTLE:  Infrastructure is so important not only at the national level, but at the state level.  Something that this summit tries to address is state-to-state and city-to-city relationship building.  And can you talk a little bit about how that state and local level relationship is important within the overall national security context and what we can do as businesses to improve state and local initiatives?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’m not sure how to answer your second question.  The first question is we have all seen this here in the United States.  A great project greenlighted by the federal government can be held up by a city or a state for a host of different reasons.  The same thing is true in other countries that we’re – we attempt to do business in where they have local regulations or those who don’t share the national government’s interest in a particular project.

Look, I think as business leaders we have to be honest about that.  We just have to confront it.  We have to make the case for why this is beneficial, why these economics matter so much.  And then of course there are times when nations need to make the decision that we’re going to put these decisions at the federal level because they have a real impact that goes far beyond what a particular state may have an interest in, and indeed, have a deep impact on America’s capacity to deliver national security for all Americans.  I think that’s true for other sovereign nations as well.

QUESTION:  And as you know from the business standpoint, we – we’re watching the news, we’re watching what you’re doing in the news, and some of the recent headlines have some people concerned about harbingers for future economic partnership.  What are some ways that we can reverse some of that and kind of reassure markets about the U.S.-India partnership?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, I think if you watch now two and a half years in this administration, I think countries that have partnered with us and chosen to invest alongside of us and who have opened their markets and are prepared to allow American businesses to invest on the same terms that – in their country, that their country’s permitted to invest here, and that we get fair and reciprocal trade, I think they’ve seen America open up to them, and I think they’ve seen real opportunity.

American businesses are fearless when it comes to competing.  We’ll lose some, but we’ll win our fair share, too.  And in each case, we will further the interest of both countries.  I’ve watched – I’ve been part of – I’ve been part of most of the negotiations that have taken place as we’ve been working through trade systems.  There were systems that just weren’t fair, and President Trump has done his best to level set those.  We’ve been very candid about that.  We’ve been honest about what it is we’re trying to accomplish.  We’re trying to take down barriers – financial barriers, non-tariff barriers – and create open markets consistent with the central ideas that we hold dear here in the United States.  I think that makes India a perfect partner and a great place for us to figure out how to grow our economies and get win-win solutions for both nations.

MS GENTLE:  And we’re going to hear from a lot of agencies within the administration, so Secretary Ross from Chamber of – from Commerce, OPIC, I think, USTDA.  So as agencies are working through trade initiatives, what can we do as businesses to make sure that our interests are aligned with yours?  We don’t always work as well together with you and the administration as we see in a lot of the state-owned businesses in India.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So look, it’s – we have an unruly, rambunctious government – (laughter) – in the sense of we have put different authorities, different powers that have – that overlap.  If you’re trying to do a deal, you’ll – you have to deal with multiple agencies.  Just – it’s true, just the facts.  I hope that we have figured out how to coordinate in ways that are important and that are transparent, so as businesses are trying to work through these problem sets you can get to leaders at the right level inside of the organizations, and those leaders can reach their counterparts, whether it’s our counterparts in Commerce or Treasury or, if it’s a security issue, at the Department of Defense.

We work hard at it.  I will tell you that the senior leaders in every one of those organizations they’ve given very clear guidance that says, look, we may have different interests – that is, we’re each representing different parts of the United States Government – but the idea that we can’t represent, that we can’t deliver on behalf of American Government that are trying to just figure their way through our bureaucracy in a way that is at least transparent and that you can work on.  And if we have problems, we address them.  That’s something that I hope doesn’t happen at State Department, and if it does, I hope someone will come ring me up.

MS GENTLE:  Well, I’ll be happy to ring you up.  And we’re unfortunately out of time.  We could continue this chat for another 20 minutes, I’m sure.  But really look forward to supporting you in your initiatives.  I want to wish you luck for your trip and good tea.  And thank you so much for being here today as we look forward to a partnership with U.S. and India, in business and in government, going forward.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Okay, great.  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.

MS GENTLE:  Thank you.