MADRUAI: Vanakkam. I would like to thank Mr. S. Rethinavelu, Senior President, Mr. N. Jegatheesan, President and the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce Madurai for their wonderful hospitality and support for growing U.S.-India business ties with Madurai.
The United States has been heavily engaged with Madurai area companies to explore opportunities for business partnerships, and much of that engagement has been with the support of your chamber and the American Business Corner. Thank you.
It is good to be back. The last time I addressed the ABC we were getting ready for the Franchise delegation to New York and Washington. Following the successful reverse delegation to the U.S. last June, we believe the time is right to increase the level of our commercial engagement.
In many ways, this Access America program is the culmination of two years of positive engagement to further strengthen U.S.-India business ties. As all of you may know, the U.S.-India commercial relationship is thriving and continues to grow.
To give you a quick snapshot : over the past year, through the efforts of our governments, Chambers of Commerce like yours, and U.S. and Indian businesses, 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.
When you count our bilateral trade in services, our commercial relationship is nearing $100 billion – up from about $90 billion in 2011. We are seeing growth in U.S. foreign direct investment into India.
And in recent years, India has been among the fastest-growing sources of investment into the U.S., totaling about $8.9 billion, as of 2012, and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs. But we still have enormous untapped potential to expand this relationship.
In coordination with the American and Indo-American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. businesses, and partnering with Indian chambers, our Consulate is focused on facilitating increased opportunities for trade and investment, and finding creative ways to bring U.S. and Indian companies together.
Led by our Commercial Office, the Consulate has opened American Business Corners–ABC’s— here in Madurai, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Kochi, and Mangalore. These corners and our regular trade missions provide useful information for Indian businesses looking to partner with U.S. companies or expand their market overseas.
As we seek to grow trade between our countries, and expand to newer cities outside the traditional metropolitan areas of New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai, cities like Madurai present attractive options.
Our Commercial Office also supports the regular visits of U.S. business delegations to South India and helps arrange visits for Indian delegations to the U.S. And during my visit, I look forward to hearing from you on how the U.S. Consulate may be able to further assist you and Madurai’s companies to do business with the U.S.
In Chennai, my staff at the Consulate continues to closely work with South Indian businesses to promote trade and investment that we believe is beneficial to both our nations. These efforts stretch into our consular section. The U.S. Consulate in Chennai is one of our biggest visa adjudication posts in the world, and globally number one, in processing employment based visas.
Consulate Chennai alone is currently the 13th largest non-immigrant visa adjudicating post in the world. In FY2013, Chennai has adjudicated over 200,000 visas, of which half were in the professional H and L work visa categories. You all will hear from one of my consular officers throughout the day regarding processes to apply for U.S. visas.
My staff and I are also focused on promoting higher education in the U.S. The U.S. and India have been collaborating in education for decades through programs such as the Fulbright-Nehru program as well as people-to-people exchanges.
Today, nearly 100,000 Indians currently study in the U.S., and student visa applications are up in South India by 15% this year. I’m pleased that the number of Americans studying in India is increasing as well. Later today you will hear from our US India Education Foundation staff as well as our Public Affairs Officer David Gainer.
In the area of Commerce – we are of course focused on engaging Tier 2 cities – and you already know that Madurai was proudly the first location for our American Business Corner program.
We hope the Madurai business community finds many opportunities for business partnerships with our Access America program today and we hope you continue to work with us to continue to strengthen U.S-India business ties, a keystone of our bilateral relationship, in the coming months and years.