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Asia

A group of elite execs is trying to strengthen the bond between the world's two largest democracies

American CEOs have been quick to support strong U.S.-India relations as many see the rising economy as a source of future growth — especially as China slows down.

A notable group of CEOs and executives led by Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers just started a new organization called the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. The group is devoted to strengthening relations between the two largest democracies in the world.

Chambers was recently in New Delhi briefing Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the new organization.

“We will have important strategic discussions to bring down the trade deficit … I think we can eliminate the deficit,” Ed Monser, president of Emerson Electric and vice-chair of the U.S.-India forum, told CNBC.

The long-term objective, Monser said, is to “boost trade to $500 billion between the U.S. and India in 10 years.”

Such a move, analysts say, may be welcomed by President Donald Trump, who has sought to bring down U.S. deficits with many of its trading partners, including India and China.

The newly minted organization comes after Modi’s visit and meeting with Trump in late June.

Other board members of the forum include Mastercard President and CEO Ajay Banga and PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi.

Monser said one of the key ways to bring down the U.S.-India trade deficit of just over $30 billion dollars is in the energy space.

“There are clear opportunities in energy … we’re now exporting oil and gas and even coal to India … that’s [more] jobs here in the US,” Monser said.

On the power side of the equation, he added, India wants to import coal and burn it cleanly, and “the best source of clean coal is the United States.” American engineers, Monser said, will be needed to support those projects.

“I think (liquefied natural gas) will be a major import for India and a potential big customer for the U.S.,” said Peter Boockvar, managing director at The Lindsey Group.

But trade is not the most pressing issue for U.S.-India relations.

“India needs to facilitate inward investment and make its market more friendly for imports and investment in order for U.S. companies to be incentivized,” said Shailesh Kumar, a senior analyst at think tank Eurasia.

Meanwhile, the India stock market continues to exhibit upbeat investor confidence with the Bombay Sensex up 22 percent this year, outpacing the gains in China’s Shanghai composite which is up 6 percent in 2017.

Falling inflation, higher growth and a pro-business government that is slowly enacting measures to improve business — including a massive tax overhaul — appear to make a recipe for success. That has mostly been India’s market story so far this year, but Modi’s demonetization act continues to be criticized as it’s seen as another hurdle for India’s poor, who rely on cash.

Hedge funds have been slowly gaining exposure to India as well, and, according to eVestment, India-focused funds so far this year have returned around 19 percent.

Last week, India’s central bank cut its interest rate, which fueled the Indian rupee to a two-year high. The rupee is currently the best performing currency in Asia — up 6 percent this year.

Source: cnbc china
A group of elite execs is trying to strengthen the bond between the world's two largest democracies

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