BANGALORE: Good morning, President H.V. Harish; Senior Vice President A.N. Chandramouli; and distinguished members of the Bangalore Chamber of Industry & Commerce.
The U.S. Consulate and Commercial Service office in Bangalore have enjoyed a long and productive partnership with BCIC with collaborative initiatives and events such as the one today.
I was delighted to have had the opportunity to meet with BCIC members on my very first trip to Bangalore in summer 2011. So, I’m particularly happy to be back again with my Commercial and Consular team to interact with you again today.
BCIC is an integral partner in achieving our mutual goal to increase the trade and investment between one of the world’s biggest emerging economies – India – with the world’s largest economy – the United States.
In Chennai, all of the U.S. Consulate sections are focused on supporting this priority objective.
We understand that a major component of facilitating trade is ease of travel and transparency in doing business and our Visa Office is fully engaged 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 in Chennai is the 13th largest adjudicating post in the world for non-immigration visas, and – as probably an unsurprising fact for the businesses in Bangalore – the number one for processing professional worker (H and L) visas.
In FY2013, my consular team in Chennai adjudicated over 230,000 visas, of which half were for professional work and business travel to the United States.
Later this morning, we’ll have one of our consular officers – Thomas Brouns – give a short presentation on work-based visas.
Our visa work is not all about business travel though, and my consular team is also very active in outreach to universities and student fairs and on webchats to discuss student visas and we participate in presentations with tour agencies, to help facilitate tourism travel to the United States – one of President Obama’s top priorities of his second term.
From the over 700,000 Indian visitors who traveled to the United States in 2012, 20% were business travelers, and the U.S. has placed a special focus on facilitating travel for purposes of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions – or MICE, as we refer to this type of travel.
The U.S is an outstanding destination for companies looking for a special place to hold company meetings and conventions.
With our tremendous diversity in venues and locations – from Hawaii’s beaches to the Las Vegas nightlife to the bustle of the Big Apple – a U.S. destination makes it easy to combine business with great tourism opportunities.
If you and your company are thinking about holding a company event in the U.S. and would like additional information our Commercial Service can provide you with excellent contacts to help you select a location and arrange an unforgettable event.
I mentioned student visas a little earlier and would like to talk briefly about the U.S.-India educational partnership.
For the longer term growth and success of countries, both India and the United States have recognized for decades the importance of educating our youth and value of bilateral educational exchanges.
And as businesspeople, you also know the criticality of a good education to ensuring a well-trained, professional labor pool.
Under the U.S-India strategic dialogue, our countries have placed a priority focus on partnering together on educational initiatives and exchange.
Each year, India and the U.S. funding exchanges for over a hundred scholars through our Fulbright-Nehru grants.
In fact, India is our largest program for Fulbright research scholars in the world – and we are pleased that more than 100,000 Indians currently study in institutions across the United States.
In South India, we are continuing to see an increase in the number of students coming to the U.S. for higher education and student visa applications in Chennai were up by another 15% this year.
We have great educational resources at the U.S. Consulate – and we’re lucky to have on site expert student advising through the U.S. India Education Foundation – collocated with our library.
So if you, or someone you know, is seeking more information about U.S. educational opportunities, I encourage you or them to contact us and visit our on-line resources.
In the area of commerce: through the efforts of our governments, Chambers of Commerce like BCIC, and U.S. and Indian businesses, over the past year, U.S. exports to India increased by about $1 billion to over $22 billion dollars, while India’s exports to the U.S. grew by about $4 billion to over $41 billion.
Our bilateral trade in goods has expanded from around $26 billion to over $63 billion in the last seven years. And when we count bilateral trade in services, our bilateral relationship is nearing the $100 billion mark.
In recent years, India has been among the fastest-growing sources of foreign direct investment into the United States, exceeding $28 billion in 2012 and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs.
We welcome your investments and the U.S. Administration has focused on streamlining our processes through our SelectUSA programs led by our U.S. Commercial Service.
I’m really pleased that our Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs John McCaslin was able to travel from New Delhi to be with us today to discuss the commercial initiatives in greater depth.
In closing, I wish BCIC and all its members a very happy 2014 and we look forward to another great year working with the Chamber to help our countries’ businesses connect.