Business, Economics and Jobs

India: Obama calls for India to ease rules on FDI


Campaign buttons are sold outside U.S. President Barack Obama's ''A Vision for Virginia's Middle Class'' campaign event July 14, 2012 at Walkerton Tavern in Glen Allen, Virginia. On Sunday, Obama made an uncharacteristic call for India to open its markets to US companies -- garnering mixed reviews here in New Delhi.

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign made front pages in India Monday, following an interview over the weekend in which the president issued some unsolicited advice for India's policy makers. Put an end to the paralysis, he said, more or less. And let in Walmart for heaven's sake.

Unsurprisingly, Obama's advice -- by way of an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI) -- has earned a mixed response. Best known as the "frenemy" who talks a good game about the US-India strategic partnership, but doesn't live up to the example set by George W. Bush, Obama has campaigned on an anti-outsourcing platform -- criticizing Mitt Romney for investing in companies that moved jobs overseas, and blasting tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs.

So what's he doing preaching against policy paralysis? Trying to woo the business-savvy types to the Democrats' fold? Looking for campaign contributions from ABCDs (American-born confused desis)?

The US president, who has made the outsourcing practices of Bain Capital-the private equity company once headed by Romney that has been accused of shipping thousands of jobs to China and India-one of his key election planks, urged India to open up sectors such as retail and insurance in an interview, wrote India's Economic Times newspaper.

"In too many sectors, such as retail, India limits or prohibits the foreign investment that is necessary to create jobs in both our countries, and which is necessary for India to continue to grow," Obama said.  

On the other hand, the Indian Express reports:

Refraining from prescribing any solutions for India’s economic difficulties, he said, “it is not the place of the United States to tell other nations, including India, how to chart its economic future. That is for Indians to decide.”

Obama noted that “there appears to be a growing consensus in India that the time may be right for another wave of economic reforms to make India more competitive in the global economy.”

But that preaching-without-preaching rubbed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the wrong way:

“If Obama wants FDI in retail and India does not want, then it won’t come just because he is demanding it,” was the terse reaction of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

“That country is giving us a certificate on investment and economy when it itself is facing economic problems. We have to ensure our national interests on our own. It is laughable,” the paper quoted BJP Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as saying.

On that point, the communists had to concur (natch):

The CPI-M reacted to Obama’s remarks in a similar fashion. “They want to open up our economy and market on their terms. For this purpose they are creating this pressure,” said party leader Nilotpal Basu.