Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells' Remarks at U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) "Road to GES" Entrepreneurship Conclave

Alice G. Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
September 12, 2017

Good morning. Thank you, Khush, for your kind welcome. Thanks to USIBC for arranging this event and inviting me, and to all of you for taking part in today’s Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) event. GES is the preeminent annual entrepreneurship gathering that convenes emerging entrepreneurs, investors, and ecosystem supporters from across the globe. It serves as a vital link between governments and the private sector, and convenes global participants to showcase projects, exchange ideas, and champion new opportunities for investment.

It is particularly fitting that the United States is co-hosting GES with India this year. In 2017 we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of India’s independence, and 70 years of bilateral relations between the United States and India. Since India’s independence in 1947, successive generations of Americans and Indians have built upon our shared commitment to democracy and universal values to create powerful bonds between our two peoples.

Every day these bonds grow stronger. More than 1.2 million Americans visited India last year, and more than 166,000 Indian students are enrolled in U.S. educational institutions. Some four million Americans trace their heritage back to India. Many were drawn to the United States out of an appreciation of the bonds between our countries--an awareness that like India, the United States cherishes innovation and hard work and the freedom for everyone to voice their views.

It’s not easy to pack up your family and to move to the other side of the world, to a strange culture where you may know few people, and start a business with no guarantee of success. You pour your savings, your labor, and your dreams into an undertaking and watch it grow. It’s a hard thing to do, but thousands of Indian-American pioneers did it and they thrived. And we celebrate them, just as we celebrate the courage of American and Indian entrepreneurs today who are taking risks and pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into new ventures. They’re generating new ideas, solving problems, chasing dreams, and doing their part to grow our economy and create jobs.

Our shared values not only shape the bonds between our people but also how our countries view the world. Just as we cherish civil liberties and inclusiveness in our respective societies, so too do we value a rules-based and open approach to the commons, in the air, outer space, or on the high seas. It is the fundamental values that drive our strategic convergence and ensure that it will continue to grow rapidly. The President’s first meeting with Prime Minister Modi in June set a positive tone and an ambitious agenda for strengthening our bilateral ties, particularly in the areas of defense, energy, and trade.

One thing we often take for granted is the existing strengths of our economic relationship. Hundreds of U.S. companies have been present in the Indian market for decades, and Indian companies and investors continue to turn to the United States when they’re looking to grow and expand their business. Of course the United States is proud to be India’s number one trading partner, purchasing more of India’s goods and services than any other country in the world. I don’t need to tell you about the extraordinary economic potential of the Indian market. The emergency of 350 million middle class consumers will drive Indian growth and will also offer major opportunities for U.S. exports. Emerging middle-class consumers will have new demands in areas such as education, health care, and financial and professional services -- fields where U.S. companies have much to offer. And U.S. agricultural technology and projects can contribute to a diversified nutritional profile that can do much to advance public health in India.

Recent purchases by SpiceJet and Jet Airways of Boeing aircraft underscore that aviation and its related industries are always areas of massive potential. Another area of great promise is the energy sector. India is the third largest energy consumer in the world after China and the United States and will remain one of the largest energy consumers for decades. Just last month, Indian companies began to increase their purchases of U.S. crude oil, and Indian firms are also turning to U.S. liquified natural gas to meet demands to diversify supplies. And India’s state gas utility, for example, signed a 20-year supply agreement with U.S. LNG producer Cheniere Energy and has already taken delivery of multiple shipments of gas.

Many have questioned how Make America Great here and Made in India can be compatible, and indeed, we do need to do more to balance the U.S. trade deficit with India, which totaled nearly $30 billion last year. Yet the developments I cited are powerful examples of the vast complementarity of our economy. Rising standards of living in India will drive demand for U.S. products, services, and energy that can help Indians live healthier and more productive lives. And that will in turn create more growth in India. We know this is a lot of work to get this done right, and we’re willing to rely on the counsel and the partnership of the business community as we work with our Indian counterparts to realize the promise of this economic relationship. We’re now working closely with USTR and the Commerce Department to address their concerns, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, subsidies, liberalization policies, restrictions on investment, and intellectual property concerns that limit market access. We’re committed to a trade relationship that promotes prosperity in both our countries by ensuring that it’s fair and reciprocal.

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an opportunity to highlight that complementarity. As we launch the “Road to GES: U.S. Series” in communities throughout the nation, we aim to share first-hand the best practices of the U.S. start-up ecosystem and the innovation and new perspectives of Indian entrepreneurs that can generate new approaches to 21st century problem sets and contribute to job growth and prosperity in both our countries. India needs empowered and well-funded entrepreneurs to create the one million new jobs it needs every month to employ its rapidly growing labor force. Entrepreneurship will be a critical part of that job creation. The easier it becomes to start, scale, exit, and invest in a business in India, the more entrepreneurs will be encouraged to pursue value creation in the Indian market. And as the Indian business environment becomes more attractive to India’s entrepreneurs, it will also attract more American investment. Our economies truly do have much to offer each other.

The city of Hyderabad, this year’s summit host, is the capital city of the state of Telangana. It’s no coincidence that Telangana was tied for first among Indian states in the most recent World Bank “Ease of Doing Business” report. It’s also home to many major American and international companies as well as T-Hub, India’s largest start-up incubator. As always, the sharing of best practices is a two-way street. GES will also help participating U.S. companies better understand and play a role in India’s new business start-up culture.

Like all our bilateral cooperation, India’s hosting of the GES will reflect our shared values and commitment to rising living standards by unleashing the human spirit through open and transparent systems. Entrepreneurship also offers solutions to pressing global challenges. When you hear the word “entrepreneur” your mind likely will immediately turn to Silicon Valley and the social media and tech legends like Facebook and Google. But today’s entrepreneurs are also solving pressing problems like access to energy and health care, and bringing the power of the digital revolution to farmers in developing countries. And it’s not just the focus of entrepreneurs that is changing--it’s the entrepreneurs themselves. The theme of this year’s GES -- Women First, Prosperity for All -- is recognition of the importance of women entrepreneurs and the role they play in making their communities more prosperous and more secure. Solving our most pressing problems, whether local, national or global, is going to take every good idea that we can generate, and that’s why we need to ensure that every budding entrepreneur is nurtured and encouraged to put their energy and vision to work in the marketplace.

At the beginning of my remarks I spoke about the powerful people-to-people bonds between our two countries. In the end, it’s these human connections that matter most. I can stand here and tell you about our economic policies and India’s, or our strategic partnerships, but at the end of the day without these strong interpersonal links, even the smartest policy will falter. Every good relationship ultimately stands on a foundation of mutual trust and understanding, and that’s why I’m optimistic about the future of the U.S.-India relationship, and why I’m excited about GES. The summit will be a wonderful opportunity to discuss our shared challenges, to find ways to overcome them, and help build that foundation of respect and trust from which our economic relationship can grow.

I want to thank you for your support of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and for joining us at this kick-off event for the Road to GES. It’s a unique opportunity, not only for the entrepreneurs and investors involved, but for us to make a positive impact that will resonate far beyond the two days in November.

I personally plan to attend the summit, and I look forward to working with USIBC and all of you here today to continue to advance global entrepreneurship.

Thank you very much.