Opening Remarks at U.S.-India CEO Forum

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Washington, DC
September 22, 2011

(As delivered remarks)

Good morning. I am delighted to welcome the U.S.-India CEO Forum back to the State Department. The CEO Forum, which links the U.S. and Indian private sectors as well as our governments, represents the best of the diverse and vibrant ties that bind the future of our two societies together. I’d like to begin by extending a warm welcome to Finance Minister Mukherjee, Commerce Minister Sharma, and Deputy Chairman Ahluwalia. I also want to welcome Secretary Geithner, Ambassador Kirk, Deputy National Security Advisor Froman, and all my U.S. and Indian colleagues who have done so much over the past decade to deepen our economic and strategic partnership with India. Thank you all for your strong commitment to the U.S.-India relationship.

The CEO Forum is a unique channel that allows each of our governments to hear from a diverse representation of the private sectors of both of our countries. Your recommendations have informed us, and challenged us, to tackle the persistent hurdles we oftentimes face in implementing our shared vision of ever greater U.S.-India cooperation.

While you challenge us, we challenge you. Our governments have created, and continue to create, new opportunities for greater interconnectedness between our economies, such as our historic civil nuclear deal; the decision of President Obama to remove Indian government entities from our export control lists; the rapid growth in defense sales and cooperation; our Partnership to Advance Clean Energy; and our bilateral aviation safety agreement, to name just a few.

And as industry leaders, you continue to play a critical role in highlighting the importance of our ties to our two publics and to the U.S. Congress and Indian Parliament. Tens of thousands of jobs are created in the United States, and surely as many in India, by our respective investments in each others’ economies. This needs to be better understood.

Your companies, and the private sectors they represent, have succeeded in fostering historic trade relations among our two countries. 2010 was a record-breaking year in U.S.-India trade, with trade in goods up 30% to a high of some $49 billion, moving India up two notches to become our 12th largest trading partner. This is excellent progress. But we all recognize that the potential for our relationship is so much greater.

India is projected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030. But to get there, India will obviously need sustained growth over the coming years, and the U.S. will have to be part of that equation if India is to realize this potential. Prime Minister Singh has remarked that U.S. prosperity is in India’s national interest, and the same is also true for us – India’s rise and its continued economic growth is deeply in the American national interest.

At this time of global economic anxiety, we are committed to working together in fora such as the G20, where advanced economies and those still emerging can learn from one another, and can forge coordinated responses to the challenges of collective action before us. And just as this is a time of rapid economic change, so too is it a time of revolutionary political change across India’s wider region. In the Middle East and in Asia, societies are charting a course toward greater political and economic freedom, and nowhere is this change more wrenching and hard fought than in Afghanistan.

In July in Chennai Secretary Clinton outlined a comprehensive vision for India’s role in Asia, and the economic and strategic dividends that such regional integration can spur. The Secretary talked about a “New Silk Road” that would reinforce the natural and historic links across Asia that had endured for millennia. The future we are seeking to achieve is a stable Afghanistan in a secure and prosperous region, from Kerala to Kandahar, from Dushanbe to Dhaka. India’s dynamic economy will be the cornerstone and the engine of such a future and we hope our private sectors will do all they can to help make it a reality.

What we do now will profoundly shape the prosperity and well being of our two countries in the 21st century. I urge you to take full advantage of the opportunities that our governments are trying to create to maximize your potential, and we will redouble our efforts to be as responsive as we can be to your needs as we seek together to realize the full promise of the U.S.-India partnership.

Again, welcome. I would now like to ask Finance Minister Mukherjee to take the floor.