Interview With Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Dr. Prannoy Roy of NDTV

John Kerry
Secretary of State
New Delhi, India
July 31, 2014

QUESTION: Well, America-India relations have been in a bit of a rut for the last two or three years. Perhaps as a sign of an intent to change, we have two of the most senior important members of the Obama Administration. We have John Kerry, Secretary of State, and Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce. It’s great to have you here. Thank you for being with us.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Thank you for having us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to be here.

QUESTION: Now, you have taken over one of the most important jobs in an Administration, following Hillary Clinton’s footsteps. What’s it like following her footsteps? And what kind of president will she make? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Just a light question to start with.

QUESTION: Just a starter. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: What a throwaway. Well, I’m not in politics anymore. I’m the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: I know, but you’re a good judge.

SECRETARY KERRY: But Hillary said many times one of the joys of the office is you don’t have to answer those political questions. (Laughter.) But I’m a great admirer and a great friend of Hillary Clinton’s, and I’m honored to follow in her footsteps which have left big prints for me to try to fill.


SECRETARY KERRY: And who knows what she’s going to go on to do? But obviously, we all wish her well, whatever it is.

QUESTION: Make a great president?

SECRETARY KERRY: She’s a very capable person, as she has proven in each step of her public life, and I have no doubts, but I’m not supposed to comment on these things.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. (Laughter.) You said big footsteps. Actually, in India, she’s seen a great friend – was seen as a great friend of India, so that’s --


QUESTION: Is that a positive for you?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ve been a great friend of India --

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- from the beginning of my Senate career. For years, I came here in the 1990s. I was the first United States senator to bring a trade mission to India --

QUESTION: Right, right.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and I’ve come here many times since then.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: We had a sister state relationship --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and a sister city relationship in Bangalore.

QUESTION: So you know India well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Beg your pardon?

QUESTION: You know India well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don’t know it --

QUESTION: I mean, as much as – no, none of us know it, really. It’s – (laughter) --

SECRETARY KERRY: There, that’s a nice admission. I appreciate your saying that.

QUESTION: And you --



SECRETARY KERRY: -- fascinating. And we’re delighted – Penny and I are really happy to be here.

QUESTION: Wonderful.

SECRETARY KERRY: And we want a new relationship. We want to see things move in a very positive way. We’re excited about Prime Minister Modi’s direction and wanting to provide jobs, the things he wants to do for electricity, for the people. And we think there’s a lot that the United States and India could work on together, and that’s why the Secretary of Commerce is here with me.

QUESTION: We couldn’t have a better person than you. You’re a billionaire in your own right, you’re a marathon runner, you love Sudoku. Which of these three are going to be important in making a deal here? You’re a dealmaker, obviously. You don’t become so successful out in the private sector without knowing how to strike a deal. What attributes of that are you going to use most in India, do you think?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: You know the thing I know about making deals? It starts with relationships.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: And I think one of the things that’s most exciting is the attitude and tone that this new government and that Prime Minister Modi are bringing to the relationship. And that’s where John and I have a real opportunity to – as the first senior officials from the Obama Administration to be here to really lay down the predicate for the relationship between our two countries. There’s so much opportunity and optimism out there, it’s been --

QUESTION: And you’re an optimist by nature?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: I am an optimist by nature.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: I spent the last couple of days in Mumbai talking with Indian business leaders, American business leaders, and there’s a real belief that we can do good things together that not just benefit the business community and benefit the economy, but benefit the people of both of our countries.

QUESTION: Country, exactly. So one always – and when you’re trying to, as you say, start a new relationship, you want to focus on the positives, but you have to get over a couple of these negatives which are hanging around – for example, the visa issue with Mr. Modi. You refused him a visa, now he’s accepted. Do you think that was a big mistake or is – you’ve done a complete U-turn, so is it – was that a mistake? You can’t be right then and now.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s wrong, because --

QUESTION: You can’t be right both times? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: No, because it wasn’t me. It wasn’t (inaudible).

QUESTION: I’m talking about America.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s what I’m saying, but that’s a very big deal.

QUESTION: Okay, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: A different government is a different government --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- just like it is here. We will welcome Prime Minister Modi, and of course, he will get a visa, no questions whatsoever, and we look forward to a terrific meeting with President Obama in September.

QUESTION: And the other government made a mistake, you think?

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, there’s no gain, folks. We’re going forward. I don’t spend my time --

QUESTION: Looking back.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- going backwards in politics on who made what decision. What I try to do is solve current issues, and Penny and I are here not to look backwards, but to look forwards. We’re here to take the relationship --

QUESTION: So if you (inaudible) --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- between India and the United States --

QUESTION: I’ll just read between the lines and you don’t have to answer; there was a mistake. Okay, fine. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I’m not going to comment --

QUESTION: No comment.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- on past --

QUESTION: Fine, fine. Talking about being a dealmaker, the WTO has been a bit of an issue, but you come at – bang at the deadline – actually, today’s the deadline. What’s the problem? From our point of view, India needs food stocks. I am an agricultural economist. I’ve studied this. We have volatile monsoons. Sometimes – this year’s not a very good monsoon. We need stocks. Just let India have food stocks and move ahead; that’s the deal. What’s the – how can food stocks for poor people and to control prices ever hold back such a big agreement?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Well, I think, first of all, let’s remember we’re here working on our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Right, right.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: The WTO is a multilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: And there’s absolute understanding that – of the challenges in terms of food security --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- that India faces.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: And we’re sympathetic with that, but the lead – the membership of the WTO also made a deal. Everybody made a deal in December acknowledging the need to work on the food security challenge in India. And so there’s an absolute commitment, and as recently as in the last several hours, there’s been a real effort to try and find a common ground, because going forward is really in the best interest of all --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- the members of the WTO, and particularly for India. India is a developing country. To have the – let’s remember what the deal’s about.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: The deal’s about trade facilitation.

QUESTION: Absolutely.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Making it easier for all of us to do business together.

QUESTION: Everybody wants that.


QUESTION: So why not just say, “Have your food stocks”? I mean, we need those stocks. As an Indian, where prices shoot up and down depending on the monsoon, which is totally out of our control, let India have food stocks and move on. You’re a dealmaker.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Well, the agreement reached in December was to take the next four years to – for the entire membership – remember it’s not about a – it’s not a bilateral deal. It’s a multilateral deal, meaning all the members have to come together.

QUESTION: I want to know, from your field, wouldn’t you just say, “Go ahead,” if it was just you, if it was bilateral?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: You know what? Our negotiators in Geneva have been very creative and are – and as you said before, I’m an optimist, I’m hopeful --

QUESTION: And you’re getting closer? You’re getting closer?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- I’m hopeful that within the period, with today --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- however one defines today in what – some part of the world --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- that there’s common ground that’s found.

QUESTION: I wish you were signing the --

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I mention one thing about it? In Bali --

QUESTION: Yeah, please.



SECRETARY KERRY: -- the – part of the agreement was that over the course of these four years, food security for India would be protected.


SECRETARY KERRY: So this is not an agreement to the exclusion of food security; it’s an agreement which includes --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- food security. So it’s important for people to understand that --

QUESTION: What if people – I’m trying to understand – for us, food security and essential part is food stock, stockpiling food because of variations in output. Just – it’s such a small thing and it’s needed. Why stop such a big deal for – but anyway, I think you’ve answered that more or less.

SECRETARY KERRY: The bottom line is that we are very sensitive to and we care about and we will work with India in order to make certain that that’s taken care of.


SECRETARY KERRY: The key is don’t lose the opportunity.

QUESTION: Exactly.

SECRETARY KERRY: Right now, India has a four-year window where it’s given a safe harbor, nothing happens.


SECRETARY KERRY: If they don’t sign up and be part of the agreement, they will lose that --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and then be out of line – either out of line or out of the compliance with the WTO.

QUESTION: Right. Moving on to one more – before I go into the positives, one more negative that you’ve come bang in the middle – and this always happens.

SECRETARY KERRY: Where do you find these things?

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m just so --

SECRETARY KERRY: There’s so much positive out there.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Right. As Madam Pritzker just said, it’s all about your relationship. You have a long relationship with India and relationships are based on trust. So what’s all this snooping all about that – Snowden wrote about it, Washington Post now. Are you snooping on the BJP politicians? Are you going to stop snooping from now on, just --

SECRETARY KERRY: We – as you know, no intelligence community discusses anything about intelligence matters in public, and we’re no different. We just don’t discuss those things.

QUESTION: Right, right, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: But I can tell you that our – that President Obama has taken extraordinary steps in order to be open and transparent. He put out an entire new directive with respect to everything the United States does or will engage in. No president has been quite so accountable – self-accountable – and, frankly, transparent and open. And we are going to continue to do everything we can to have the best cooperative security relationship with India possible. I had a terrific meeting this morning with your national security advisor.


SECRETARY KERRY: We have a huge agenda on counterterrorism and --

QUESTION: And you met Mr. Jaitley? You met Mr. Jaitley as well?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, we did, yes.

QUESTION: Any headlines from both those meetings?

SECRETARY KERRY: That they were good.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Anything substantive?

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s a big headline --

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Right, (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: -- given where you started. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Moving on to a believer – I know you’re strong believers – and most people are these days – in the free market, in goods and services, and that’s what you’re pushing for and aiming at. So there’s a lot of puzzlement in India as to when it comes to affecting negatively the United States, you’re not so committed to free market, like, say, the IT sector, visa restrictions and stopping people from going because of political reasons at home. But that’s – you can’t sacrifice a principle of free market and not give visas. Are you going to give us more visas for our terrific software people, which will help your country?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Well, as you know, the Obama Administration and the President himself very much supports comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. In the bill that has – that passed the Senate in the United States --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- it expands the number of H-1B visas, something we want – we have over 125,000 Indians studying in our universities today and they’re terrific students. We’d like them to stay if they want to stay in the United States and work in the United States. The Obama Administration would. In the Senate bill, it offers those folks who have studied in the United States getting a master’s or a Ph.D. in mathematics or --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- engineering or technical fields the right to stay in the United States with a green card. So we would like to see that.

QUESTION: So that’s a positive step forward, but more visas? More people going?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: More visa – in the immigration bill --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- that passed the Senate, it would have more green cards, more visas in the H-1B.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: And so our hope is, is that our Congress will pass that bill.

QUESTION: Okay, great. You have been so involved in the Middle East, we feel a bit neglected here in Asia, I must be frank, but it’s – glad that you come here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s because you’re not fighting.

QUESTION: Thank goodness, yes. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: I mean, keep it the way it is, please.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: We want you to stay like you are.

QUESTION: But in Gaza – now, Israel is your friend, your close ally, but the – what’s been called the disproportionate use of force, does that worry you? Does that make you – all the children being killed, hundreds of children, schools being bombed, don’t you tell them sometime, “Hey, friend, you’re doing yourself damage and doing us damage too,” this – don’t you feel it’s disproportionate use of force?

SECRETARY KERRY: What worries me is that an organization that has been labeled and appropriately identified internationally as a terrorist organization --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- started firing rockets indiscriminately against another country, and no country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border, out of which jump people who are carrying handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and take them back and hold them for ransom. That’s not --

QUESTION: That is (inaudible), yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: No country can support that, so it’s very difficult --

QUESTION: Yeah, but the disproportionate response --

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, but – I know, but --

QUESTION: Do you feel it is disproportionate?

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, it’s a terrible thing when any civilian is killed in any war, and I understand that. I’ve been to war. I know what happens when civilians get killed.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: And there’s nobody in Israel who doesn’t hate the fact that innocent civilians are caught in this crossfire. But unfortunately, Hamas has a record of also putting civilians into harm’s way purposefully as part of an effort. Now, look, I don’t want to caught – what’s important here is --

QUESTION: That sounds a bit like when you’re a bombing a school, you’re not putting a citizen in the way.

SECRETARY KERRY: What – I don’t know who did that and nor do you.

QUESTION: Right. You don’t know who did that?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don't know. I do not know.

QUESTION: But whoever did it, it was wrong?

SECRETARY KERRY: Of course it’s – you don’t bomb schools and you don’t want children to be hurt. But we also need to know the facts before we start --

QUESTION: Because there’s that terrible phrase --

SECRETARY KERRY: Here’s what we need to do. Let me tell you what’s important.

QUESTION: Sorry, I’ll just tell you a terrible phrase.

SECRETARY KERRY: But let me tell you what’s important first.

QUESTION: That stuff happens and this is collateral damage.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, I’m not --

QUESTION: You don’t believe in that? I know your background; you don’t believe in that?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not buying into any flip, quick phrases that deal with this.

QUESTION: No, that’s not it at all.

SECRETARY KERRY: This is not that. This is a terrible situation where we clearly want a ceasefire. Nobody’s been working harder than I have to try to find a way towards a ceasefire so that we can actually negotiate the very complicated, longstanding differences and issues that are at stake here.

QUESTION: But is this --

SECRETARY KERRY: The Palestinians want and deserve a country and we support a two-state solution. President Obama supports it, we support it. We’re working towards that. But the place to work towards it is not on a battlefield; it’s at the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Exactly, exactly.

SECRETARY KERRY: And that’s where we want to go.

QUESTION: But excessive force, is it damaging your cause?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, if it – look --

QUESTION: A yes or no on that – excessive force, is it damaging?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don't know if it’s been excessive or not. I can’t make that judgment.

QUESTION: Oh, you can’t? Okay.

SECRETARY KERRY: Because I don't know what happened. There are allegations of people firing their own rockets and accidentally hitting people and then blaming it on the other side.


SECRETARY KERRY: Or there are allegations of people being purposefully put in harm’s way.


SECRETARY KERRY: This is not the time for the Secretary of State of the United States to start making those judgments. What we’re trying to do is stop the violence, get the people to the table --

QUESTION: On both sides.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and negotiate the real solution that, once and for all, ends this violence going forward.

QUESTION: I want to talk to you again about deal-making. Now we have tremendous opportunities on the nuclear front. There was a huge historic deal signed between India and America. But then there’s these – the lawyers in America have taken over, your liability laws – you know on any deal, never let the lawyers take over. France and Russia are doing – are carrying on with these laws. Can’t you just take charge and say, “Lawyers, stand back, we will invest and we will have clean energy – nuclear energy, and America will take the lead”?

SECRETARY PRITZKER: Well, America’s very committed to working with India not only on the civil-nuclear front, but on really growing its energy capacity. We know the development of India depends upon having energy, and it’s really --


SECRETARY PRITZKER: -- important also to us that we help support clean energy development. On the civil-nuclear front, our hope is, is that we can resolve the liability issue so that the companies can move forward.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: There’s certainly a desire by American businesses to work with not just the Indian Government, but Indian businesses, to see that there’s greater energy capacity here in the – in India.

QUESTION: Right. I know you are very short of time. We’re completely running out of time. Just an issue that America, President Obama who said this is going to be the defining relationship of the 21st century, India and America, which is two great democracies. And you are going to support us becoming members of the Nuclear Supplier Group, but that hasn’t – are you still supporting India becoming a member of the Nuclear Supplier Group?

SECRETARY KERRY: We are supporting India in – not only in that – we’re supporting India in getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.


SECRETARY KERRY: We are supporting India in trying to build a great democracy relationship between the United States and India in ways that can define – I mean, if we could do the things we’re talking about doing with respect to energy, the environment, innovation, technology, education --

QUESTION: These are all in your heart. I know that – yes.

SECRETARY KERRY: These are all things that are in the Indian heart too. We admire so much --

QUESTION: In your history, yes. Absolutely, yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: I mean, we are both – I said in a speech I gave in Washington the other day --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- that these things are in the DNA of both of us --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and we need to marry that and --

QUESTION: And last question for you: You’re a person of numbers, so I want a number. India-China: Your trade with China is 500 billion; with India, it’s under 100 billion, 95 billion. Where are we going to be three years from now? You’re going to be here three years from now, I hope sitting in the same chair, and I’ll say, “Have you met your target?” Give us a number.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: There’s enormous opportunity between our two countries in trade. $96 billion of two-way trade is totally insufficient.


SECRETARY PRITZKER: We want to do more business here. We want Indian companies doing more business in the United States. And I hope that we --

QUESTION: Give us a number.

SECRETARY KERRY: Vice President Biden --

QUESTION: Something to --

SECRETARY KERRY: Vice President Biden put the target at 500 billion within the next years. We want to go from 100 to 500.

QUESTION: To 500, that’s great.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s the quickest first target.

QUESTION: It’s in your hands. Thank you very much for --

SECRETARY KERRY: See, I put the weight on her.


SECRETARY KERRY: Now she’s going to – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Yeah, now you – (laughter) --

SECRETARY PRITZKER: I have a lot of work to do now. Just – it’s --

QUESTION: A little bit of work here?


QUESTION: It’s all good. Sir --


QUESTION: -- both extremely positive.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks a lot.

QUESTION: I think it’s a sign of an intent to change, to have a turning point with both of you here in India.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much.


QUESTION: And good luck.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.


QUESTION: And let’s hope the positive energy --

SECRETARY KERRY: Good luck to all of us.




QUESTION: Yes, exactly. Thank you very much.



QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.