BELGAUM: Good Evening. President Rajendrakumar, senior officials, and distinguished members of the Belgaum Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
I am delighted to finally have the chance to visit Belgaum.
During this visit, we look forward to exploring opportunities for partnership with BCCI, and to learn how the U.S. Consulate may be able to assist you and Belgaum’s companies to do business with the U.S.
To give you a quick snapshot of our current U.S.-India business relationship: 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 want India’s businesses located in its Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities also to be part of this growing relationship and see great opportunities in expanding our partnerships between more small and medium sized Indian and American businesses across our countries in cities like Belgaum.
To help us reach out to businesses throughout India, the U.S. Mission has a large, interagency team working toward these goals in multiple locations.
In the South, we have three extremely active U.S. Commercial Service offices – our office in Bangalore covering the State of Karnataka, our office in Hyderabad covering Andhra Pradesh and our office at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai where our U.S. Principal Commercial Service Officer for the South – Jim Golsen – is located and which also covers Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
I’d pleased to have with me today from our Bangalore office Srinivasa Murthy. Murthy is one of our talented Commercial Specialists covering Karnataka and will be a great contact for the Belgaum chamber.
As this is my first trip here, I’d like to cover briefly the five main services our U.S. Commercial service can provide to Indian businesses:
- First, we provide Business Matchmaking services.
Our U.S. Commercial Service hosts over 200 individual U.S. companies a year in South India – companies that have come to India looking for partners – and we host multiple trade missions.
As part of these events, our Commercial Office experts meet with Indian companies one-on-one to understand the company’s goals and how best to match them with American companies.
Some of the events we have coming up this spring are:
– A Select USA Roadshow in Bangalore from April 7-11;
– An Automotive Trade Mission in Chennai from April 29-30;
– A Franchising Trade Mission,
– and a Dental Trade Mission in Bangalore
– later during the fall of this year.
- Second, the Commercial Office helps organize Buyer Delegations to the U.S. –
The Commercial Service supports over 35 trade shows in the U.S., and organizes Indian buyer delegations’ travel to the U.S.
Through its network of over 100 trade offices around the U.S., the Commercial Service can provide on-the-ground logistics and matchmaking support.
- Third, the Commercial Service can help with Trade Finance Support –
Working with the U.S. Export-Import Bank (“EXIM”), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, our Commercial Office works with Indian companies to identify the best trade finance options available to assist in the purchase of goods and services from the United States.
- Fourth, the U.S. Commercial Service is the lead agency for our Select USA initiative.
Low energy costs, special incentives, advanced technology and a well-educated labor pool make the U.S. an attractive investment destination for many industries.
Our Commercial Office serves as the U.S. Government’s one-stop shop for Indian companies looking to set up operations in the United States.
Select USA is helping companies from all over the world easily navigate the regulations and incentives for investing in America.
- And finally Trade Education –
Our Commercial Section works with Chambers of Commerce and individual companies throughout South India on delivering value-added trade education on all aspects of doing business with the United States, for example, IPR protection, customs clearance procedures, trade finance and developing distribution channels.
While the U.S. Commercial service is our lead on our commercial activities, all of the U.S. Consulate Chennai sections help support 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 the number one for processing professional worker (H and L) visas with many of those applicants coming from Bangalore and Karnataka.
In FY2013, my consular team in Chennai adjudicated over 230,000 visas, of which over half were for professional work and business travel to the United States.
I’m pleased to also have with me tonight one of our consular officers – Thomas Brouns – who will give a short presentation on work-based visas later on.
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 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 or your company is 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 before I wrap up my remarks, I’d like to also mention briefly our U.S.-India educational partnerships – which is another major focus of the U.S. Consulate’s work.
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. is 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 Educational 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.
I thank President Rajendrakumar the Honorable Secretary, Venkatesh Sarnobat, and the Chamber again for inviting me and my team to be with you tonight, and we look forward to working with you.