Piyush Goyal, the commerce and industry minister who was on a whirlwind tour of the United States recently, captured the hearts and attention of the Indian Diaspora. Goyal’s transparency, tact, and forthcoming approach to audiences across different forums were well appreciated.
While touring the West Coast, at the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISP) organized in Los Angeles, Goyal said, “India is expanding its international engagements with many countries. Two FTAs have been already signed and at least two more are to be signed by the end of the year. The agreement with EU is in the works and may take a while with 27 member countries.”
Buoyant and bullish about the India narrative, Goyal was also very welcoming of all issues raised by Indian investors and businesspersons alike. Gunjan Bagla, an international business consultant addressed the elephant in the room by asking Goyal to elaborate on why India did not consent to the Indian Pacific Economic Forum’s (IPEF) trade deal pillar.
The answer was reflective of the sensitivities and maturity of the emergence of a ‘New India’. “As we are holding parallel discussions on FTA with other countries, we want to be sure what’s in it for India. The IPEF is still a ministerial document and India wants to ensure that the binding agreements that come out of these forums are fair for India and all the developing countries. India is the voice for developing nations.”
He further pointed at the WTO forum to drive home his point. Goyal said that at the forum India took a stand on behalf of the developing world and got significant concessions in all the agreements. “What’s the hurry? Be bold and let your clients know what India stands for,” he said.
Arun Dutt, an importer from LA requested for a consulate to be opened in So Cal to increase the ease of trade between India and LA. The Consul General of India, T V Nagendra Prasad also made a note of this request in the interest of trade opportunities.
Pranav Desai, the head of Voice of Specially-Abled People (VOSAP) had a unique economic and trade dimension to the manufacturing of wheelchairs and other accessories in India to combat the dominance of China in this area. Even a complaint made by Ravi Tilak on the no visit from the law ministry was taken well in stride as Goyal promised to take it up with the appropriate ministry.
In response to a question from Anshuman Sinha on bridging the investor-investee gap, the minister educated the audience about the website www.investindia.gov – an initiative to facilitate investments in India. This also led to the government’s efforts to bridge the gap between investors and companies without too much involvement from government agencies. Mukesh Aghi, the president and CEO of USISPF thanked the audience for participation before whisking away Goyal for another engagement.
On day two, Goyal was seen engaging with equal fervor at the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Chino Hills in So Cal. He took a tour of the grand monument along with the swamis who also welcomed and blessed him. Dignitaries such as Pravin Patel, Kanaksinh Zala, Ramjibhai Patel, Anil Parekh, and Amrutbhai Patel also gathered at the venue to give the minister a warm welcome.
Gaurav Bhargav, CEO of LPH Apparel hosted the minister in Orange County, where the focus of the event was the textile and apparel industry.
The attendees ranged from TiE SoCal members, elected officials, and dignitaries, including Manu Shah of MS International, an entrepreneur who imports stone, granite, and marble worth $500 million from India.
Bhargav asked Goyal, who also holds the textile portfolio, about the cotton pricing being high in India and what measures are being taken by the government of India to control this. “The government of India has no control over the pricing of cotton. It’s an open market & the price is determined in keeping with the norms of the trade,” Goyal said.
Another attendee Rupa Kanungo, CEO of an Arvind Mafatlal Group Company specially flew down to Los Angeles to meet with the minister, asked questions pertained to the 75 textile hubs that Goyal wants to create as clusters and if the Government of India would consider setting this up as a public-private partnership venture. Here too Goyal’s reply was directed toward investors as he urged them to take on ventures in the private sector. He asserted that the rate of success would be much higher if the government played the role of facilitating the process and did not directly partner in any venture. This according to Goyal is also in line with the government reforms that are being seen in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime.
The mayor of the city of Anaheim, Trevor O’Neill welcomed the minister and thank the attendees for their trust in the city officials.