Exclusive: US plans first-ever infra trade mission to India

Representatives from US firms will be part of a delegation aimed at helping India develop its Smart Cities initiative, a collaboration to which the leaders of both countries have previously committed.

President Barack Obama’s promise to send two trade missions to India focused on upgrading the country’s infrastructure will soon be realised with the US Department of Commerce seeking applications from US firms specialised in the technology, water, transportation and power sectors to participate in the first-ever US infrastructure trade mission, which is scheduled for February 2016.

The announcement came after a high-level meeting of business and government leaders from India and the US was held in Washington DC earlier this week, Michael Likosky, who chaired the event and serves as head of infrastructure at consultancy firm 32 Advisors, told Infrastructure Investor.

“Our decision to bring this trade mission to India reflects a simple fact: the US business community can partner with India to provide world-class products and services to help meet the country’s growing infrastructure development needs,” Bruce Andrews, US Deputy Commerce Secretary and one of the event’s keynote speakers, said in a statement. 

“Working together, through our governments and private sectors, we can build the foundation for a strong, resilient infrastructure network across India, while also generating economic growth, jobs, and opportunities for people in both the United States and India.”

Amitabh Kant, Secretary of India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, in his keynote speech told participants that “we are trying . . . to get the states involved in the process too. This would help to easy out doing business in India.”

President Obama had announced the two countries’ commitment to working closely together on developing India’s infrastructure when he first travelled to New Delhi last September to meet with Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister. Modi placed infrastructure development at the top of his agenda almost immediately after being elected in May 2014. His plan includes developing 100 smart cities, with the US agreeing to play a key role in developing three of these: Ajmer, Vishakhapatnam and Allahabad.

The event, co-convened by the US Department of Commerce and 32 Advisors, was the first time government and business leaders gathered to discuss infrastructure development and investment. Participants included representatives from the US International Trade Administration, the US Agency for International Development and New Delhi-based foreign investment promotion agency Invest India as well as executives from US developers AECOM and AES, among others.

“The event was a catalyst for the first-ever US infrastructure trade mission to date,” Likosky said. “Hopefully it will be the first of many. With our small off-the-record follow-up meetings, US Commerce and 32 Advisors aim to make that mission a success,” he added, referring to the series of small gatherings the firm and the US Department of Commerce will convene in New York, bringing together Deputy Secretary Andrews with leaders in the infrastructure financing community as well as in the design, engineering and construction sectors.

The Business Development Mission delegation will be composed of senior executives from 15 to 20 firms, according to the US Department of Commerce. The delegation will travel to India from February 8 to February 12 and make stops in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. Firms wishing to participate have until November 20 to submit their applications online.