It is a great honor to be back in India for my first visit as Treasury Secretary, and I want to thank Finance Minister Jaitley for hosting me today.
The Obama administration has made deepening the bonds between the United States and India a key priority. The President reaffirmed that commitment when he visited India last month, the first time a U.S. President has come to India twice while in office. We are partners in many different ways – in our economies, as democracies, and as diverse societies looking to grow.
Our commitment is rooted in the belief that we can significantly advance both of our interests by promoting economic ties and increasing trade between our two growing markets. That is why we are meeting for the fifth annual U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership.
Since the Partnership began, we have developed our engagement in a number of important areas: expanding macroeconomic cooperation to support global growth, strengthening our financial sectors, resolving tax disputes, combatting illicit finance, and facilitating long-term investment through the development of deeper capital markets in India.
And over the last few years, we have seen significant progress. For example, trade between our countries has reached nearly $100 billion a year.
As we stand here, both of our countries are making the hard choices necessary to raise growth and employment for our populations.
In India, the Modi government has taken steps to reduce fuel subsidies, allowing the government to continue reducing deficits while providing the fiscal space to make investments that will boost growth and raise employment.
Yesterday, I visited a Unique Identification Enrollment Center in Koli Village. This initiative underscores how increasing active participation in an economy helps promote growth and prosperity. And the scale – enrolling 800 million people – is remarkable. India’s rapid and impressive financial inclusion campaign will provide critical services by enabling a direct benefits transfer and improving the accountability and efficiency of India’s programs. And, together we can do more to help ensure widely shared growth, promote job creation, and strengthen demand.
In addition, the Modi government has made headway on reforms that will facilitate foreign investment in India’s infrastructure sector – thus helping India meet its significant infrastructure needs. Still additional reforms are necessary, and an increase in public investment combined with a more open investment climate and a deeper financial sector, would help attract private infrastructure investment.
At the same time, external balances have improved, inflation has moderated and the government has signaled its commitment to strengthen its fiscal position.
As India makes progress on its economic reform program and follows through on the difficult decisions reform requires, the United States stands ready to be your partner in whatever way we can.
The United States has had to make a series of tough choices in recent years: putting in place reforms to our financial sector, improving our health care system, controlling our deficit, and asking the most fortunate citizens to contribute a little more. These policy decisions were not easy, but they were instrumental in helping our economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
All along the way, some voiced doubt about our economic policies. The performance of our economy demonstrates the power of using our policy tools effectively to promote stronger conditions. Our economy is much stronger today, with healthy growth, the creation of more than 11 million private sector jobs in the longest streak of job growth in our nation’s history, and falling federal budget deficits.
Still, we need to do more to make sure our economic gains reach more Americans, and the President has put forward a budget that will help grow and strengthen the middle class through rising wages, higher incomes, and increased opportunity.
Let me close by pointing out that India and the United States have much in common—our values, our democratic traditions, and our commitment to broad-based prosperity.
And there is much that we can still do. Even with the growth in trade that we have achieved between our two nations, only two percent of America’s imports come from India and only about one percent of America’s exports go to India. The fact is, the untapped potential in our economic relationship is immense, and by working together to realize this potential, we will strengthen both our economies.
By investing in each other’s success, we can build a stronger and brighter future.