Foreign Secretary Menon, Ron Somers, General Mehta, Mr. Topa, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Washington. I am pleased to welcome such a distinguished group from both the public and private sector for the fifth meeting of the U.S. - India High Technology Cooperation Group.
Secretary Menon, it is a particular pleasure to welcome you to the United States on your first visit as Foreign Secretary. Your presence here reaffirms the importance we both accord to the High Technology Cooperation Group.
Let me also thank Ron Somers and the U.S.-India Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for hosting this year's event.
The US-India trade relationship has taken significant steps this year, and this meeting gives us the opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.
Later today, Secretary Gutierrez will tell you about the progress in the U.S.-India relationship and the opportunities that lay ahead. He was in New Delhi last week and will give you a very current report on the relationship.
The U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group
The HTCG is an important dialogue between the United States and India. It is widely recognized for its effectiveness and ability to deliver real results. It has a proven record of facilitating high-technology trade, while advancing important export control and nonproliferation objectives for both of our countries.
It's been successful for a number of reasons:
This dialogue allows policy makers to hear directly from those most affected by their decisions.
In the HTCG, government officials not only engage directly with the business community, they also discuss and develop action plans to address the specific recommendations you, the business community, develop.
This process has been a critical component of the great advances we have made since the HTCG began its work in 2002.
No where have been more successful than in strategic trade. Thanks to the work of the HTCG, and the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, India has had far greater access to U.S. technology as we have been able to change export controls on certain dual-use items.
The results have been striking.
These advances were the result a new atmosphere of trust and confidence that has allowed sweeping export control changes over the past five years.
Today, we have the opportunity to build on this success. Together, we can make new strides in such key areas as defense trade, information technology, biotechnology and life sciences, and strategic trade.
We need to address procurement policies, transparency in defense acquisitions, and offsets, in defense trade. By working on these issues, we'll move closer to realizing the strong and robust defense relationship envisaged by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh.
Information technology and e-commerce continue to be significant economic drivers for both India and the United States. This forum is committed to working with industry to improve the commercial environment in both areas.
While the U.S. remains the largest IT market in the world, India is the fastest-growing IT market. This creates exciting new synergies for our companies in this arena.
Biotechnology and Life Sciences
Many new lifesaving products are in development and entering the market. However, in order for Indian industries to maximize the opportunities presented by current global trends and to attract U.S. investment, India needs to have a regulatory system that is based on international practices. And life science products must have adequate facilities where they can be stored and protected while in transit.
India also needs a robust IPR protection regime, which includes a strong enforcement component. Companies must be confident that their products and technologies are protected in order to attract investment and promote expansion.
Today's discussions will provide an opportunity to address all these issues, and to discuss the enormous opportunities in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical products.
Trusted Customer Program
Finally, the next great step in our export control and high technology relationship is the Trusted Customer Program.
Announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh last in March 2006, the Trusted Customer Program will streamline trade in dual-use technologies. It will allow end users in India who have demonstrated their ability to use controlled items responsibly to get the technology without a license.
This is a new and significant initiative in the world of strategic trade. For the first time, we will create an export authorization that uses market-based incentives. Customers in India who act responsibly with sensitive products will have better access to such technology than their domestic competitors. And U.S. exporters will be able to sell more efficiently to their best civilian customers in India.
This system could significantly reduce export license requirements while facilitating high technology trade in all of the sectors that we will be discussing today.
We can make even more progress as India moves to harmonize its export controls with those of the major multilateral control regimes. As India does this, more products and end-users will become eligible for the Trusted Customer Program.
Assistant Secretary Christopher Padilla will give a detailed briefing later today on how this new program will work.
Finally, I want to underscore that your work today is more important than it has ever been. The U.S.-India strategic partnership is maturing.
Total bilateral trade stands at $32 billion and continues to grow rapidly. President Bush and Prime Minister Singh have committed to doubling trade by 2010. And while we are well on our way to achieving that goal, we must continue removing barriers especially in high-tech trade. The HTCG remains a powerful and effective means to do so.
This is the vision boldly set by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh, and it provides a unique opportunity to shape the government decision-making process to help us build a stronger and enduring relationship.
Once again, I would like to thank the Government of India--and, in particular, Foreign Secretary Menon--for your strong leadership and your partnership.
Thank you very much.