India story a win-win, Modi tells America Inc

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his US visit on Sunday, telling American business leaders that India’s growth presented a “win-win” opportunity for both nations.

Modi referred to his government’s attempts to improve the business climate, including the “landmark” single unified tax regime GST to woo American companies to “contribute” India’s growth.

“Growth of India presents winwin partner’p (partnership) for India & US both,” the prime minister told the CEOs at a closed-door roundtable, according to remarks posted on Twitter by an official who was in the room. The meeting was attended by the chief executive officers (CEOs) of 21 top companies. Among them were four of Indian descent — Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen and MasterCard’s Ajay Banga.

Others included Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Walmart’s Doug McMillon and Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky.

“The whole world is looking at India. 7,000 reforms alone by GOI for ease of biz n minimum govt (government), max (maximum) governance…” Modi said in tweeted remarks, adding, “The implementation of the landmark initiative of GST could be a subject of studies in US business schools.”

He was referring to Goods and Services Tax that will untangle a mesh of local taxes and replace it with one unified system that is set to roll out on July 1.

Some CEOs had concerns about tax rates under the coming GST regime, but Mukesh Aghi, president of the US-India Business Council, who attended the roundtable, said he was surprised no other issues were raised. This is Prime Minister Modi’s first trip to the US since Donald Trump took over as president. The United States is pushing India to do more on reforms to enhance market access for foreign companies and strengthen its Intellectual Property Rights regime. This along with India’s own concerns and market access demands are on the agenda for discussion when the Prime Minister meets President Donald Trump on Monday, the highlight of the visit.

Four US lawmakers have in a letter to Trump asked him to bring up the issue of trade and investment barriers at his meeting with Modi.

The PM will meet President Trump on Monday when the two leaders are expected to put to rest recent concerns about a relationship adrift due to the new administration’s focus on other issues.

There has also been some disquiet in India about the President’s remarks wrongly accusing India of seeking billions in aid under the Paris Climate Accord and the review of the US H-1B visa system used heavily by Indian IT firms operating in the US.

Trump and Modi have never met before, but have spoken on phone several times.

On Saturday, Trump called Modi a ‘true friend” in a tweet from his official account, managed by his aides, unlike his personal account @realDonaldTrump that he runs himself as his personal bullhorn. “Look forward to welcoming India’s PM Modi to @WhiteHouse on Monday. Important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend!” the tweet from the handle @POTUS said. Modi responded warmly, but displaying an awareness of the difference between Trump’s two accounts. “Thank you @POTUS for the warm personal welcome,” he wrote, adding, “Greatly look forward to my meeting and discussions with you @realDonaldTrump.”

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