MINISTER SWARAJ: (In progress, via interpreter) the finalization of which President Obama and Prime Minister Modi played key roles. We have agreed to scale our collaboration in clean energy and to quickly operationalize the various initiatives that were announced during Prime Minister’s visit to facilitate investment in this sector from U.S. into India. We look forward to working with the U.S. to ensure the success of the International Solar Alliance.
We also agreed to work together on the implementation of Agenda 2030 through its 17 sustainable development goals. The SEDs are entirely consistent with many of our government’s flagship domestic initiatives, such as Skill India, Make In India, Swachh Bharat, and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Given the fact that we account for one-sixth of humanity, success or failure in realizing Agenda 2030 or fulfilling the (inaudible) will depend on the success achieved in India.
I thank Secretary Kerry for his (inaudible) continued U.S. support to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and permanent membership of the UN Security Council. We both agreed that India’s enhanced global role is in mutual interest. We also had detailed discussions on the developments in our region, particularly Afghanistan. We have agreed to work together to strengthen the national unity government in Afghanistan.
We have decided to widen our consultations to more effectively address the rapidly evolving regional and global situation. We will hold consultations on Africa and on multi-lateral issues within this year. We have also strengthened our cooperation in the area of peacekeeping. In this context we recently launched the first UN peacekeeping course for African partners in New Delhi. This is an apt symbol of our partnership of peace, security, and development in the wider world. We have agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the area of maritime security. Our trilateral with Japan has moved from dialogue into action in key areas of regional connectivity and (inaudible) on the bilateral side.
Our partnership now covers every aspect of human endeavor. In this context, there have been a series of sustained ministerial exchanges in the areas of defense, finance, urban development, commerce and industry, power, environment and forest, petroleum and natural gas, among others. More such exchanges are planned in the coming months. I sought Secretary Kerry’s support for resolution of long-pending issues of totalization and the fee hike for H-1B and L-1 visa that impact our people-to-people exchanges, which is a vital source of strength for our relationship.
Overall, our meeting today has contributed to our efforts to forge a closer partnership with the U.S. in pursuit of our development goals and strategic priorities. We are certain that the India-U.S. partnership will continue to benefit not only both our peoples but also become a factor for peace and stability in the region and the wider world. Thank you.
MODERATOR: May I now invite Secretary for his remarks to the meetings. (Applause).
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good evening and thank you very much. Thank you, Minister Swaraj, for your very thoughtful comments. And thank you for an outstanding dialogue throughout the course of today, and thank you for your partnership on so many important issues. In more than two years of working together, I have to say that you have always lived up to your reputation as a fierce advocate for India’s interests and for India’s citizens, and I know that you have never wavered in your belief about the importance of strengthening the relationship between India and the United States, and we thank you for that.
I also want to thank my colleague and my friend, Secretary Penny Pritzker, and her counterpart, Ms. Minister Sitharaman, both of whom have understood the importance of the commercial ties between our countries and of also bringing our private sector leaders to the table for these discussions. And we had private sector leaders, very important leaders, and Mr. Mistry of the Tata Group and David Cote of Honeywell, and they contributed significantly to this discussion.
Let me just for a moment, on a personal level, make a comment of observation that I made at the end of our meeting today. I’ve had the privilege of coming to India since I think in the 1990’s, if I recall correctly, as a senator. And I had the chance to on occasion talk with various groups about our relationship, and I experienced a period of time when we were struggling to come out of the Cold War still and struggling to build a relationship. In the last two years, I must say, there has been no sense of that. We have really moved amazingly in this relationship, and the evidence of that is that just yesterday, our defense minister in the United States and your defense minister visiting in Washington signed a defense logistics agreement between our countries. Today, we signed a cyber agreement where we will work together on cyber issues. We have topped $15 billion in defense trade between our countries.
We have agreed now to move forward on six Westinghouse nuclear reactors, which will provide energy for 60 million Indians, not to mention an enormous number of jobs. We have some 40 government working groups that are now engaged in working on different issues, and some 70 or so initiatives between our countries. So I think we are witnessing a moment that defines, for certain, a very different and renewed relationship between the United States and India. And all of these steps, and more than I have just mentioned, have strengthened and redefined our dialogue, and they have energized our entire relationship. And I think Sushma would agree with me about that.
To me the wide-ranging talks and constructive talks that we held this afternoon reaffirm something that we can’t take for granted, and that is that when two democracies that are as large, as dynamic, as vibrant, as interdependent as ours get together, we can not only make a big difference for our citizens, but I believe we can make a difference in taking steps that have an impact – a positive impact – on people in the rest of the world. And I was struck by the comment that Sushma made just a moment ago about – this is a discussion that, because of India’s size, does represent more than one-sixth of humanity on this planet. That is an important discussion by definition. That is why President Obama made the U.S.-India relationship such a high priority for him and I’m sure it is why Prime Minister Modi did the same, and it’s why our agenda today was such a large agenda. I’m very pleased to report that we made headway on a variety of issues in this second Security & Commercial Dialogue.
To bolster our mutual defense in an age when threats can come from literally anywhere, we committed to a joint cyber framework to reduce cyber crime, to encourage responsible behavior in cyberspace, to improve coordination among our technical experts, and to improve coordination among our law enforcement agencies, and to promote cyber research and development. And we reaffirmed India as our major defense partner and welcomed the signing of this new agreement that took place in Washington. To more effectively counter the threat that is posed by violent extremism within both of our borders and beyond, we agreed to expand the exchange of terrorist screening information, to deepen cooperation in designating terrorist groups at the United Nations, and to expedite mutual requests for legal assistance.
More broadly, we have reiterated our unwavering commitment to the protection of our citizens and to defeating the terrorist mantra of bigotry and of hate.
Let me be clear, the United States continues to support all efforts to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai and the Pathankot attacks to justice, and we cannot and we will not make distinctions between good and bad terrorists. Terror is terror no matter where it comes from or who carries it out.
And to build on our shared leadership in combating climate change, the United States is going to do more to help India upgrade its power grid and work with our private sectors in order to help provide financing for innovative renewable energy projects and clean energy entrepreneurs. That is the only way we will have a chance of adequately meeting the promise of Paris and adequately meeting the challenge of climate change.
Our civil nuclear cooperation will bring affordable, clean energy to tens of millions of Indian households as we move closer in the use of safe, modern, latest-generation modular nuclear power. And my government looks forward to making the promise of Paris a reality and of being one of the countries that will soon officially join the global climate agreement.
Now, to halt unnecessary loss of life and prevent diseases, we intend to develop and start clinical trials for vaccines against dengue and tuberculosis. And to reaffirm our mutual roles as essential players on behalf of security and progress in this region, we will restart trilateral talks between the United States, India, and Afghanistan at the United Nations General Assembly next month. Doing so is going to enable us to determine how best to build on the past gains of securing villages, empowering women, educating students, and promoting good governance across Afghanistan. And I want to thank India for the important contribution it has been making to the efforts in Afghanistan.
Now there were, of course, a lot of other issues that we discussed, including our robust student exchange programs, cooperation in space, support for women’s rights, and making it easier for Indian travelers to enter the United States. The bottom line is that India and the United States are more deeply engaged on more important issues than at any time in the history of our relationship. In other words, we are cooperating and we are working more closely together than ever before, and this is a product of the many interests and the values that we share, and is a process I think that also comes from the deep respect that we have for each other and for the personal relationship that Prime Minister Modi and President Obama have built together.
In closing, I again thank my friend, Minister Swaraj, for her special hospitality and her leadership, and to say that I look forward to our continued collaboration on behalf of peace and security in the months and the weeks to come. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. May I now invite Honorable Minister for Commerce and Industry Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman to make her press remarks.
MINISTER SITHARAMAN: Thank you. We had a fruitful and productive meeting at the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue meeting which was held today. Both the sides appreciated the intense engagement between India and the United States under various work streams and various economic initiatives under the S&CD mechanism. It was assessed that ties between the United States and India have never been stronger – as reflected by the unprecedented commercial cooperation, high levels of bilateral trade, and highest ever FDI inflows to India in 2015-16, especially from the U.S. In the morning, Secretary Pritzker and I held discussions with the U.S. and the Indian CEOs and took into account their extremely valuable suggestions on economic development initiatives. I thank the U.S. CEO Forum co-chair Mr. Dave Cote and Indian CEO Forum co-chair Mr. Cyrus Mistry for successfully articulating major concerns and recommendations of the CEOs on both the sides, which will form an important input for our ongoing work under the S&CD. A number of recommendations made during the previous two editions have already been acted upon. Based on the CEO forum recommendations we have agreed to take a focused intervention in the following areas: One, we have launched a transparent government e-market place, GeM, developed by DGS&D. We have agreed to look at best practices exchange with GSA Advantage, which deals with government procurement in the US. We will work on best practices on procurement models and will look at collaboration between the Department of Expenditure and the USTDA. Two, taking forward innovation and entrepreneurship work stream, we have agreed to focus our attention on small- and medium-scale enterprises. We would be looking at creating a platform for sharing of best practices and technology as also address issues of finance and market access for SMEs and thus promote their integration into the global value chain. We have agreed on program called – on a program called the Silicon Valley Comes to India, which will have experts from USA coming to India to interact with startups and provide the required momentum to Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem. The third is under the Commercial Track of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, Secretary Pritzker and I had extensive discussions on bilateral economic initiatives and reviewed the progress made since the last S&CD under the four work streams relating to infrastructure collaboration and smart cities, ease of doing business, innovation and entrepreneurship, and standards. Both sides welcomed the addition of travel and tourism as a new work stream for future collaboration. We took note of the progress in infrastructure and smart cities collaboration such as the Smart Cities Business Development Mission to India, Reverse Trade Mission to USA by the Andhra officials. It was agreed that the USTDA will collaborate with the Andhra Pradesh Government for facilitating integrated master plan development. And the USTDA, in collaboration with Ajmer and Allahabad, to facilitate their proposal for the Smart City Challenge stage would continue. The collaboration initiated for municipal bonds with Pune would also continue. We were very happy to share that reforms in commercial law such as the bankruptcy code and policies such as Make in India have yielded remarkable benefits facilitating ease of doing business in India. The off-shoots of our constant focus on innovation are there for all to see. India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index has shot up 15 places this year alone. India and the USA have agreed to co-host the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, which will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, educators, government officials, and business representatives from all around the world, creating new opportunities for investments, partnership, and collaborations. We have signed the GES Statement of Intent for this event. We have decided to work together to see how the U.S. companies and investment bodies tap the opportunity of India’s infrastructure projects through mechanisms like the National Infrastructure and Investment Fund. Both sides will also facilitate collaboration in research in health sector, specifically focusing on non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular ailments, diabetics, and cancer. We welcome the exchange of best practices in the area of standards and outcomes of the roundtable organized by the CII in association with standards regulators of both the countries. We discussed the NPL and the NIST collaboration which would look at both developments of reference material production and collaboration on physical, mechanical, electronic standards. A technical delegation on standards to U.S. is also proposed which will engage with NIST on reference material production, conformity of assessments, and conformity in standards. BIS will also engage with NIST on TBT Enquiry Point and sector-specific guides. We agreed to encourage the CII and ANSI – the ANSI partnership for development of standards portal and other initiatives as per the MOU signed during last S&CD. We agreed to make a new addition to existing work streams under the S&CD on partnership in the travel and tourism sector. Both sides recognize the huge potential for engagement in advancing bilateral trade in travel and tourism services and it was agreed to observe 2017 as the travel and tourism partnership year. Given the increased tourist movement between both the countries, the cooperation in the areas of best practices in tourism administration and marketing, public-private partnerships, diversification of travel and tourism expertise, niche markets, and promotional activities are likely to benefit both the countries. Both countries discussed their priorities for economic development and the policies initiated to achieve these objectives and agreed to continue their engagement in fulfilling the potential for bilateral trade between the two largest democracies in the world.
MODERATOR: May I now invite Ms. Penny Pritzker, U.S. Commerce Secretary, to deliver her press remarks.
SECRETARY PRITZKER: Let me begin by recognizing my co-chairs, Secretary Kerry, Minister Swaraj, and Minister Sitharaman. Thank you for all of your commitment to elevating the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and strengthening the U.S.-India commercial partnership. I also want to recognize the co-chairs of the U.S.-India CEO Forum, Dave Cote and Cyrus Mistry. They injected – and the CEOs that they worked with – they injected recommendations and perspectives of our countries’ private sectors into the bilateral commercial relationship.
In the two years since Secretary Kerry and I first – became the first U.S. cabinet members to meet with Prime Minister Modi, the relationship between the United States and India has blossomed and grown. This is attributed to the progress made through the S&CD and to the real domestic economic reforms undertaken by the Modi government. I applaud the prime minister, Minister Sitharaman, and the Government of India for their ambitious agenda, including the landmark Goods and Services Tax law, the new insolvency and bankruptcy code, and the decision to raise foreign direct investment caps in key sectors.
As a result of the progress through the S&CD and as a result of the Modi government’s reforms, today the United States and India trade more with each other. We invest more in each other and we do more business together than ever before. Our challenge has been to build on that progress by thinking bigger, acting bolder, and delivering real results. And I believe we met that challenge during today’s S&CD. Our governments, as Minister Sitharaman delineated in detail, agree to advance our ongoing work and move forward on a series of new initiatives that will promote our shared goal of a closer, more productive relationship between our nations and our people.
Over the next year, our governments will partner to implement new recommendations from the U.S.- India CEO Forum, including facilitating financing for infrastructure and energy projects, the development of India’s smart cities, enhancing digital infrastructure here in India, improving the ease of doing business, and supporting our small businesses, our innovators, and our entrepreneurs. We’re excited about our – that our governments will soon sign a partnership agreement to launch the Global Procurement Initiative, here in India, to encourage the broader adoption of value-based procurement methodologies in India’s civil sector.
We also agreed to strengthen economic ties between U.S. and Indian states and cities, including by highlighting state-level business opportunities and linking U.S. and Indian companies looking to invest with local leaders and economic officials – economic development officials in both of our countries.
Finally, we will inaugurate our first-ever bilateral dialogue on travel and tourism tomorrow. In 2015, the United States welcomed 1.1 million visitors from India, up from nearly about 600,000 Indians who visited the United States in 2008. Last year, India welcomed 1.2 million visitors from the United States. It’s quite obvious the opportunities for growth are tremendous. Our new effort – our first effort, a bilateral dialogue on travel and tourism – will ensure that we’re well positioned to capitalize on our status as travel and tourism partner countries for 2017 and to bring even more visitors to our respective shores.
Today, as we close our second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, the strategic and commercial partnership between the United States and India has never been stronger. In a very short time, we have seen how this dialogue can make us stronger economic partners. However, we have much more to do to reach the incredible potential that exists in our commercial relationship.
I look forward to building upon the trust, the openness, and the honesty we have developed. And I thank Minister Sitharaman for her partnership and leadership. Thank you.
MODERATOR: I thank all four dignitaries for their press remarks. We will now have the Q&A session, which I’ll be conducting together with my U.S. colleague, Mark Toner, who is Deputy Spokesperson of the U.S. State Department. The principals have agreed to take a total of four questions, two from the U.S. side and two from the Indian side. When you – I want a show of hands, those who want to ask questions. When you do that, please also identify yourself, the organization that you represent, and which of the four principals you would like to address your question to.
I recognize ANI for the first question from the Indian side.
QUESTION: My question is for – to Secretary Kerry and Sushma Swaraj. Secretary Kerry, India has been a longstanding victim of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. Today in your talks with her, did – what did you convey to – about the U.S. position on this?
(Via interpreter) Are you satisfied with the views which have been expressed in the (off-mike)?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for the question. I think I answered the question in my opening comments, in which I made it very, very clear that the United States stands in strong partnership with India against all terrorism, no matter where it comes from, no matter what form it takes. And as I said, there’s no good terrorist here and bad terrorist here; terrorism is terrorism. We stand fully behind India in demanding that there be justice with respect to the Mumbai attacks, with respect to other – and we have had conversations with all of the members of the region, frankly, about efforts they need to take to curb terrorism that comes out of their countries. And that is true of everybody, anywhere in the world. So I think it is crystal clear that the United States and India are of exactly – well, of similar mind with respect to the issue of terror and the need to not only prevent it but to bring those to justice who perpetrate it.
MINISTER SWARAJ: (Via interpreter) The second part of your question was related to me. I think after listening to the reply of the Honorable Kerry, you must have been satisfied with the reply in my opening remarks. I had mentioned that America and India – we are both friendly nations. Both of us are friendly nations, and we are one of the largest democracies of the world. And on such issues related to terrorism, some expectations are there, and with those expectations Honorable Kerry spoke to me. He agreed with me on all the four issues. We cannot differentiate amongst the good terrorists, bad terrorists. No country should become a safe haven for terrorism. Mumbai, Pathankot terrorist attacks – we would take strictest possible action against the perpetrators of this crime, and the UN committee which puts sanctions on the terrorists – on that issue also Honorable Kerry supported our stance, and I think he has taken a very positive attitude – positive attitude (inaudible).
MR TONER: First question on the U.S. side is Lesley Wroughton of Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you. To Madam Foreign Minister, I wanted to ask you: What needs to happen for dialogue to resume between India and Pakistan? And how concerned are you that a possible escalation of these tensions and possible further cross-border attacks if no talks are possible?
And then for Secretary Kerry: Can you elaborate a little bit more on the Afghanistan – the trilateral Afghanistan talks that you mentioned? How you – and how you see this perhaps helping to resolve the tensions within the unity government? And is there also a fear that with those talks and what you’re saying today that Pakistan – that you might – that Pakistan might be feeling more isolated as you’ve mentioned about the closer dialogue with India, the Afghan talks, and what you said on terrorism?
MINISTER SWARAJ: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) about Indo-Pak tension, I’m sure you are aware of the fact that there is – we do not create any kind of tensions. Our first issue while dealing with Pakistan was that we want to discuss these bilateral issues peacefully. All kinds of initiatives were undertaken by our government. When this government came to power, at the oath-taking ceremony, prime minister of Pakistan was invited. After that, foreign secretary level talks, we decided to hold these talks.
But a kind of atmosphere was created by them that we had to decide not to hold those talks. When I visited Islamabad and comprehensive bilateral dialogue, this would be started once this decision was taken. And I returned with a decision. But when honorable prime minister of India, he visited Lahore, then what we found, we found there was terrorist haven Pathankot air base. So how can we hold dialogue in such an atmosphere, at least this kind of expectation – aspiration of the – we are having that terrorism and dialogue, both of these things cannot go together.
Therefore, it is not a matter of grave concern, but this is what we aspire and expect, that all these – some actions should be taken against the perpetrators of these crimes. They should be brought to book.
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the first part of your question, the trilateral and what can we hope to accomplish and why, India has been enormously helpful with respect to Afghanistan. Prime Minister Modi has visited Afghanistan twice to inaugurate Afghan’s parliament and also to – most recently to inaugurate the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam.
There are major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan that India is investing in. I think there’s about $2 billion of Indian investment in Afghanistan. And clearly, it is in India’s interest, as it is in Afghan interests and our interests and Pakistan’s interests, frankly, to have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan that is no longer under siege from the Taliban or from any other group that tries to use its territory to propagate terror.
So our hope is to be able to strengthen all of the efforts that we have been deeply engaged in for a long period of time through these talks, and perhaps even to find ways ultimately to explore the possibilities of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is something we have also been seeking through various efforts to engage the Taliban – I might add, under the auspices of the leadership of the Afghan Government. That is a critical component of it. None of this would be done separate from whatever President Ghani and the government will decide they want.
In addition to that, the question of Pakistan feeling isolated because of it, et cetera – I think all of us are in touch with Pakistan in one way or the other. I have most recently talked to both the prime minister and General Raheel Sharif regarding the need for Pakistan to deprive any group of sanctuary. And Sushma has talked about this danger of sanctuary in any place. It is well known that the Haqqani Network and others have operated out of the western part of the country. Lashkar-e Tayyiba is a threat, as we all know, and one that we have all spoken out against and which has had an impact on India directly.
And so it is vital that Pakistan join with other nations in tackling this challenge. And in fairness, in recent weeks and months, they have been moving much more authoritatively in the western part of the country on the strongholds of the Haqqani Network, and I think recently have made difficult decisions in order to carry that elsewhere. So we have to keep working together and stay in communication on these efforts, and that’s exactly what we are doing.
We also are in touch with the unity government in Afghanistan. I have had personal conversations with both President Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Our special envoy, Rick Olsen, and the ambassador, Mike McKinley, are working extremely hard right now with all of the parties, as are others, in encouraging them to resolve the differences that exist. And I think India’s participation, frankly, can only help strengthen those efforts and underscore to the Government of Afghanistan the importance of them being unified, of working through whatever difficulties exist, and of remaining stable in the face of the challenges that they face.
So my hope is that Pakistan, on the contrary, is not isolated by this, but is encouraged by this and finds in this a roadmap for its own choices, because we all need to be engaged simultaneously and in the same direction in tackling this challenge of terrorism. The Government of Pakistan has made it clear to me that they are deeply committed to this effort, and we need to cooperate as much as possible in order to rid ourselves of this scourge that is disrupting life in so many places in so many parts of the world.
And I believe we are – I might just add; this is not part of your question – I am convinced we are on the road to success. It takes a while. Daesh is significantly under pressure in Iraq and in Syria. We have liberated communities from Ramadi to Fallujah to Tikrit to Manbij City in Syria, and so forth. There is not one area, one city, one major plot of land where since last May – a year ago – Daesh has succeeded in assaulting and holding and taking new territory.
So there are obviously big challenges – challenges of communication, of recruitment, of dissatisfaction in certain places that they try to appeal to. But that is the value of the kind of meeting that we had here today. It is to organize our efforts and to make sure we are cooperating as broadly as possible on a global basis, because there isn’t one country in the world – not one – that supports the intentions of a Daesh or of a Boko Haram or of an al-Shabaab or any of these other terrorist entities, and they’re the ones that will be isolated by what we are doing here today.
MODERATOR: Second question from the Indian side. I recognize Elizabeth Roche from Mint.
QUESTION: My question is for Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman. Ma’am, has there been any addressing of India’s concerns on the visa fee hikes from the U.S. side? And on the totalization agreement, has there been any discussion on that in the S&CD, and what kind of assurance have you got from the American side?
MINISTER SITHARAMAN: Yes, both in the S&CD and also in the CEO Forum the issue of visa fees and the totalization have been taken up. The industry spoke during the CEO Forum, and during the S&CD – the Commercial Track – we’ve also raised the issue. I must thank Secretary Pritzker, who came forward proactively and spent some time also with, I understand, industry representatives. And then she’s offered – and with her due consent, I would like to say this – that she will look into this matter definitely, and because there was this feeling by the industry which was voiced during the CEO Forum meeting that probably the Indian industry is under the impression and is pushed to believe that they probably are being targeted. And we do not want – as the industry said, we do not want anything which would affect the mutual trust that prevails between India and the United States.
As a result, to dispel the feeling of being targeted and to also ensure that the feeling of trust which prevails between the two countries, Penny Pritzker came up voluntarily during the meetings, on her own said she would take it up, will look into this matter, and see what progresses. So I’m indeed thankful, because that was a very candid and open, forthcoming statement from the Commerce Secretary. We did raise it. We voiced our concern. We gave estimates of what damage it would do to our industry too. Thank you.
SECRETARY PRITZKER: Hi. I would just like to make a couple comments on this subject. If you step back and think the goal of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue is to strengthen one of the world’s most significant partnerships, and when industry expresses concern that they’re being targeted, it’s absolutely imperative that we look into that issue. I don’t believe that that’s true because the United States recognizes the enormous contribution of foreign workers to our economy, including in our workers from India, and increasing U.S. and Indian business-to-business ties has been one of our highest priorities. And we greatly value the Indian companies that invest in our economy, and in fact, Indian foreign direct investment into the United States is around $11.8 billion as of 2015.
And in fact, if you look at the data, Indians are the beneficiaries in Fiscal Year 2015 of about 69 percent of all H-1B visas and 30 percent of all L-1 visas issued worldwide. And any changes that have been made to our H-1B and L-1 visa application process – they’re not limited or focused on Indian nationals. They’re really – they’re an across-the-board change. But given the concern expressed by Indian industry, I committed to Minister Sitharaman to look into this and to report back, so I will be working with the State Department to understand how we’re implementing the new laws that we have.
MR TONER: Thank you. The final question will go to Nick Wadhams from Bloomberg.
QUESTION: For Secretary Pritzker and Commerce Minister Sitharaman, on the issue of TPP and TTIP, it looks like TTP is – sorry, TPP is opposed by both U.S. president candidates, and Germany and France are now saying that TTIP should not proceed. So do you believe that we’re sort of returning to a system where bilateral treaties and trade agreements are sort of the order of the day?
And then, in line with that, I noticed over the course of the day there was no mention of the BIT between India and the United States. Is that an indication that an investment treaty is sort of dead in the water, that there’s too much work to be done on that right now? And could you talk a little about the importance of proceeding with the BIT? Thank you.
SECRETARY PRITZKER: Let me begin by saying the trade agenda for the United States has been a top priority for President Obama and for all of us in the Administration, and trade is always difficult to get done, and particularly multilateral trade agreements. TPP is an agreement that we’ve completed negotiation. We’re in a process to see if we can get this passed. Our President and our entire Administration remain completely committed to that agreement. It’s not only an important economic agreement, but it’s an important strategic agreement for the United States. It really underscores part of our commitment to our partners throughout the Asia Pacific region who want us and want our businesses to be more present. They want to adopt the high standards of labor, standards – environmental standards, e-commerce standards that will enable them to trade as first world nations. And so this is not an agenda that we are forgoing at all.
As it relates to the BIT with India, I make the same statement I made to the previous question, which is this is my third visit to Delhi. This is – I’ve had many, many meetings with Minister Sitharaman and our teams have met because we are focused on strengthening one of the world’s most significant partnerships both from the strategic standpoint and the commercial standpoint, which is why we elevated the commercial side of our relationship. And one of my proudest accomplishments as Secretary of Commerce is the commitment we’ve made to that elevating of our economic ties between the United States and India and the progress that we’ve made towards achieving the vision that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi set out for us, which is to strengthen, deepen, and broaden our commercial and economic engagement.
As it relates specifically to the BIT, a high-standard U.S.-India BIT would provide real economic benefits to both of our countries and would significantly boost India’s efforts to attract U.S. investment. But it’s not in anyone’s interest or neither of our interest to negotiate an agreement that doesn’t meet those high standards. In the meantime, we’ve made enormous progress, and whether it’s facilitating financing for energy projects, infrastructure projects; whether it’s investment in our – India’s smart cities; enhancing the digital infrastructure here in India; improving ease of doing business; supporting small businesses, innovation, entrepreneurship; growing our travel and tourism, we have a robust agenda where enormous progress is being made.
MINISTER SITHARAMAN: (Inaudible) to respond on that? On the model investment treaty, the model investment treaty that we have made has been shared with the U.S. authorities. We certainly want to have imports coming from them. Based on that, we would like to continue the dialogue towards a BIT.
As regards TTIP and TPP, you observed rightly the presidential candidates of the U.S. have both spoken about it. At this stage, there’s nothing that we can comment. We certainly will wait to see how after the elections the TPP is progressing.
As regards the European Union, we will also wait to have a dialogue (inaudible) European Union. We’ve asked for dates. So for India, it’s a time to wait and watch, although we are eager to continue talking.
MODERATOR: This concludes the joint press interaction. Thank you.
Source: U.S. State Department.