Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at the India Ideas Summit and 44th Annual Meeting of the U.S.-India Business Council
MS GENTLE: Mr. Secretary, we’re so honored to have you here today to have an open conversation. You talked a lot about the strategic initiative, so I thought maybe we would start at the strategic level. As you think about the Indo-Pacific region, what concerns you? What are the challenges that we’re going to need to overcome to execute, as you say, on a lot of these new opportunities?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I talked about that actually, frankly, right here at the U.S. Chamber in my last set of remarks. I think we’ve executed over that time pretty well, but frankly, there’s still a lot more work that remains to be done.
Look, we all know the common challenges of nations that don’t share our value sets, of nations that don’t subscribe to private – rules of private property and the rule of law and ordered liberty and all the things that both India and the United States value. Well, what does it take for those of us who do to work together? It takes a couple things. It takes real trust and commitment, and that’s built through hard work, being there when times are tough and being there when times are good, recognizing that we have to develop win-win solutions between our countries.
And as I have spent time in the region over – I guess it’s now 15, 16 months as Secretary of State, I’ve watched – I’ve watched nations in the region – India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, I could go through the list – I’ve watched those countries come to recognize that we have so many things that we can work on together, so many shared opportunities that we can, in fact, deliver on them. We have to be candid, we have to be straight, where we have disagreements we have to own them, work through them, find compromises that deliver good outcomes for every nation in the region, and then collectively – collectively begin to work in a way that will deliver growth throughout the world and for these countries throughout the Indo-Pacific for the next five, ten, twenty-five years.
MS GENTLE: Well, and I was really encouraged to hear you go through many industries where we have economic cooperation that’s growing between the U.S. and India. So as you think of the strategy that was laid out last year at the Chamber meeting, what are those economic priorities that you want to accomplish within that larger strategy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I talked about a few of them today. I didn’t tell the story – I did business in India when I – before I lost my mind and ran for Congress, I ran a small business that made machine parts for the aerospace industry. And I spent a fair amount of time in Bangalore and in Chennai working with HAL – with Hindustan Aviation* Limited – to sell products we – a small joint venture. I’ll tell you what. It was tough. India was still opening up, it was still figuring its way through, but there was a real value proposition there, and we did well.
When I think about that, when I think about what businesses need when they go to invest in each other’s countries, they need stability, they need a set of rules that they can understand, they need to make sure that the efforts that we put forward together from the United States have sufficient bipartisanship, that they won’t be whipsawed, as we have elections here. That is, when you invest, your ROI often extends beyond any particular congress or any particular administration.
If we can do those things – and I talked about some of the fields. It’s already happening in technology and engineers. I know all of the amazing, brilliant Indian students that come to study in our schools at Wichita State University in my hometown, lots of amazing people doing amazing things want to come work in places where they can go make money and be successful. They don’t care so much if it’s with an Indian company or an American company. They want to go out and use their skillset.
If we can, at the State Department, lay the foundation for that, then I’m confident the folks in this room will knock it out of the park. They’ll take risk, they’ll invest capital, they’ll invest capital here and in India, and we’ll grow both sides of the relationship.
MS GENTLE: And Mr. Secretary, as you talk about the economy, you – as you would expect, I would like to talk for a minute about energy, an issue which I follow very closely. And I hear you and others in the administration talk about the potential for energy to fuel the growth in the relationship between the U.S. and India – pardon the pun, “fuel the growth” – and LNG really has that potential to meet many of the initiatives and goals of the Modi administration for cleaner air, decarbonized economy. So what can we as energy companies focus on that are aligned with the State Department’s strategic initiatives?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s a fantastic question. I’ve talked about this a lot. As the Secretary of State I think it’s – I think it provides a real opportunity for American businesses, but for global growth as well. We’ve been blessed with abundant affordable energy right here in the United States, and we’re now out producing it at enormous levels, not just crude oil but natural gas as well.
So on our side we’ve got to make sure that we build out the infrastructure that’s necessary, so that we have the infrastructure so that we can deliver it and provide these opportunities. And then the State Department’s role is to make sure that we’re out talking about that, sharing with other countries that this is a – we can be a reliable partner for their energy. When you make an energy investment, it’s 10 years, 20 years, 40 years that capital will be at risk, and so we need to make sure they understand we’re a reliable partner, we will – that we honor contracts, that we can deliver, that our pricing mechanisms will be right, and capital markets will work to make sure that these products can be delivered in an affordable method. And when we do that, I think we can fuel growth in lots of places in the world, and I think India is a great example. They can have a fully diversified energy portfolio where they don’t have to rely on nations that aren’t as reliable as the United States and have good outcomes, outcomes that their business leaders can count on, and frankly that Americans thinking about investing in India can count on as well.
MS GENTLE: Infrastructure is so important not only at the national level, but at the state level. Something that this summit tries to address is state-to-state and city-to-city relationship building. And can you talk a little bit about how that state and local level relationship is important within the overall national security context and what we can do as businesses to improve state and local initiatives?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not sure how to answer your second question. The first question is we have all seen this here in the United States. A great project greenlighted by the federal government can be held up by a city or a state for a host of different reasons. The same thing is true in other countries that we’re – we attempt to do business in where they have local regulations or those who don’t share the national government’s interest in a particular project.
Look, I think as business leaders we have to be honest about that. We just have to confront it. We have to make the case for why this is beneficial, why these economics matter so much. And then of course there are times when nations need to make the decision that we’re going to put these decisions at the federal level because they have a real impact that goes far beyond what a particular state may have an interest in, and indeed, have a deep impact on America’s capacity to deliver national security for all Americans. I think that’s true for other sovereign nations as well.
QUESTION: And as you know from the business standpoint, we – we’re watching the news, we’re watching what you’re doing in the news, and some of the recent headlines have some people concerned about harbingers for future economic partnership. What are some ways that we can reverse some of that and kind of reassure markets about the U.S.-India partnership?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I think if you watch now two and a half years in this administration, I think countries that have partnered with us and chosen to invest alongside of us and who have opened their markets and are prepared to allow American businesses to invest on the same terms that – in their country, that their country’s permitted to invest here, and that we get fair and reciprocal trade, I think they’ve seen America open up to them, and I think they’ve seen real opportunity.
American businesses are fearless when it comes to competing. We’ll lose some, but we’ll win our fair share, too. And in each case, we will further the interest of both countries. I’ve watched – I’ve been part of – I’ve been part of most of the negotiations that have taken place as we’ve been working through trade systems. There were systems that just weren’t fair, and President Trump has done his best to level set those. We’ve been very candid about that. We’ve been honest about what it is we’re trying to accomplish. We’re trying to take down barriers – financial barriers, non-tariff barriers – and create open markets consistent with the central ideas that we hold dear here in the United States. I think that makes India a perfect partner and a great place for us to figure out how to grow our economies and get win-win solutions for both nations.
MS GENTLE: And we’re going to hear from a lot of agencies within the administration, so Secretary Ross from Chamber of – from Commerce, OPIC, I think, USTDA. So as agencies are working through trade initiatives, what can we do as businesses to make sure that our interests are aligned with yours? We don’t always work as well together with you and the administration as we see in a lot of the state-owned businesses in India.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So look, it’s – we have an unruly, rambunctious government – (laughter) – in the sense of we have put different authorities, different powers that have – that overlap. If you’re trying to do a deal, you’ll – you have to deal with multiple agencies. Just – it’s true, just the facts. I hope that we have figured out how to coordinate in ways that are important and that are transparent, so as businesses are trying to work through these problem sets you can get to leaders at the right level inside of the organizations, and those leaders can reach their counterparts, whether it’s our counterparts in Commerce or Treasury or, if it’s a security issue, at the Department of Defense.
We work hard at it. I will tell you that the senior leaders in every one of those organizations they’ve given very clear guidance that says, look, we may have different interests – that is, we’re each representing different parts of the United States Government – but the idea that we can’t represent, that we can’t deliver on behalf of American Government that are trying to just figure their way through our bureaucracy in a way that is at least transparent and that you can work on. And if we have problems, we address them. That’s something that I hope doesn’t happen at State Department, and if it does, I hope someone will come ring me up.
MS GENTLE: Well, I’ll be happy to ring you up. And we’re unfortunately out of time. We could continue this chat for another 20 minutes, I’m sure. But really look forward to supporting you in your initiatives. I want to wish you luck for your trip and good tea. And thank you so much for being here today as we look forward to a partnership with U.S. and India, in business and in government, going forward.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Okay, great. Thank you. Thank you all very much.
MS GENTLE: Thank you.
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