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Obama, Modi attend India-US CEO Forum as leaders discuss trade issues

The country's top industrialists split among themselves issues of concern to the two countries and spoke on relevant areas only instead of speaking on all of them.

(L-R) Bharti Enterprises Founder Sunil Mittal; Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani

(Editing: BT Photo)

US sanctions on companies in third countries, ease of doing business and intellectual property rights were among a dozen issues that figured at the India-US CEO Forum where US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were also present.

The country's top industrialists split among themselves issues of concern to the two countries and spoke on relevant areas only instead of speaking on all of them.

At the roundtable that preceded the address by Obama and Modi, the Indian CEOs were allotted a total time of just 18 minutes.

Sources privy to the discussions said 5 CEOs spoke for two minutes each, followed by an open discussion where the other CEOs got an opportunity to air their views.

While HDFC's Deepak Parekh spoke on bilateral ease of doing business, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Enterprises focused on electronic cluster development and smart cities.

Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani covered agriculture, innovation and skill development.

Biocon Chairman and MD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw highlighted pharma and IPR issues plaguing the business relationship between the two nations.

Parekh, they said, also spoke on visa restrictions.

Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) Chairman and Managing Director Dinesh K Sarraf discussed India-US not having a free-trade agreement (FTA) hampering import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The country is seeking long term assured supply of natural gas from the US at competitive prices to meet its energy needs but Washington bars sale of LNG to nations with which it does not have FTA.

Sarraf also raised the issue of domestic firms attracting US sanctions for investing in third countries like Russia and Iran.

ONGC is yet to enter into US upstream sector as it fears for its investment given the fact that it has business in many countries which may fall under restrictions due to change in geopolitics.

In the open discussion that followed, Kumar Mangalam Birla spoke on challenges faced by home-grown companies investing in the US while Mahindra Group head Anand Mahindra dwelled on defence and single window clearance, sources said.

ICICI chief executive Chanda Kochhar spoke about the American tax evasion law, FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) as well as other banking issues.

Reliance Group head Anil Ambani discussed Indo-US collaboration in solar power while Essar's Shashi Ruia spoke on STEM initiative in the US.

Cyrus Mistry of Tata Sons and David M Cote from Honeywell co-chaired the high-profile meeting attended by captains of industry from Indian and the US.

Adani Group head Gautam Adani, Sudhir Mehta of Torrent Pharma, State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and BHEL head B Prasada Rao too are part of the 17-member Indian delegation at the Forum.

The US team included Indira Nooyi of Pepsico, Harold McGraw, Chairman McGraw Hill Financial and Ajay Banga, CEO Mastercard.

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