WASHINGTON, D.C.— Raymond Vickery, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration and now one of the leading experts on U.S.-India trade issues, who was one of the panelists at the U.S.-India Friendship Council 2019 Spring Conference last month on Capitol Hill, said the main driver of the U.S.-India relationship would be the economic engagement between both countries.
Obviously arguing from a point where President Trump and his administration has made clear that above all, it’s bilateral trade relationships would be transactional, whether its trading partners are democracies, long-time allies, and/or strategic counterweights against the likes of China, Vickery predicted, “The economic engagement between the U.S. and India is a major driver in what happens in the whole…rest of the relationship.”
He recalled, “The reality is the U.S. and India were estranged democracies prior to the liberalization and the opening of the Indian economy and trade between U.S. and India.”
“And, we would have never, ever, got to the place we are now, if the old, top-down command economy, closed borders in trade, and in the movement of persons, had continued,” in India, he argued.
Vickery, an attorney with the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, D.C., and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Wadhwani Chair on U.S.-India Policy Studies, declared, “Trade is not just a subsidiary question—it is fundamental” to the U.S.-India relationship.
He acknowledged that “without the Indian American community, the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal would never have been done.”
But, he asserted, “It’s also true that the component of American business engaging on that issue, the deal would never have been done,” and added, “As we go forward, we have to be able to capitalize on that.”
Vickery, a strategic adviser to the U.S.-India Friendship Council--and a confidante of its founder and chair, North Carolina entrepreneur and activist Swadesh Chatterjee--since it was first convened in 2005 to muster a coalition with U.S. business and industry to lobby Congress to approve the U.S.-India nuclear deal, noted that for all the optimism of U.S.-India trade in goods, “it continues to pale by comparison to U.S.-China trade.”
He pointed out that in 2018, U.S.-China trade in goods alone topped $659 billion and by comparison, U.S.-India trade was $87.4 billion. “So, something is wrong with this picture because the U.S. and India are the two greatest democracies on the face of the earth. We have a convergence in terms of values, and yet, we are at that level,” insignificant when it comes to comparative figures in U.S.-China trade.
Thus, Vickery reiterated that it is imperative that “we have to engage the Congress with regard to trade and investment in India as Congress has the constitutional lead role with regard to trade, and unless we can tackle the questions like GSP(General System of Preferences, which the U.S. has said it’s going to deny India), subsidies, and raising of tariffs, it’s not going to happen.”
Amy Hariani, vice president of the U.S.-India Business Council (USAIBC), who is also a lawyer by training and one of the most experienced international trade litigants, who moderated the panel discussion, said the USIBC “shares the sentiments of (Rep. Tulsi) Gabbard and (Rep. George) Holding over GSP being denied India.
“The revocation of GSP, right now, right in the middle of the elections, is not the right time to be moving forward on that,” she said.
Other panelists at the conference were Sean Mulvaney, Associate Director for International Business Development, Procter & Gamble, and Penny Naas, UPS Vice-President and District Manager for International Public Affairs and Sustainability.