November 6, 2008

US diplomat praises West Bengal, wants closer cooperation

Kolkata, Nov 5 (IANS): Praising the West Bengal government for creating a congenial atmosphere for foreign investments, a top US diplomat Tuesday expressed her keenness to work more closely with the state to strengthen bilateral trade between India and the US.”My impression after three months here is that the government of West Bengal is very interested in bringing important American investments to the state. So I look forward to working with the government on ways of making those connections with the American investors,” Beth A. Payne, consul general at the Consulate General of the US said here on the sidelines of a conference by the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce.
“It is important that the American investors have good understanding of here so that we can bring more investments here,” Payne said. She also welcomed Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to visit the US. Asked how the US is so comfortable doing business with a state ruled by the Left Front, Payne said: “We look beyond these labels nowadays. The Cold War ended a long time ago.”

However, she added: “American investors are watching very closely how the government resolves issues surrounding land acquisition for large investment projects, and would like to see signs of assurance that future investment projects in this state would be free from disruptions caused by political disagreements.”

Last month, the state had to wash its hands off Tata Motors’ Nano small car project due to prolonged furore over farmland acquisition between the state government and the principal opposition party Trinamool Congress.

Bilateral trade between India and the US in the manufactured goods reached over $41 billion in 2007 and is estimated to grow to over $50 billion this year. In 2007, imports from the US registered an increase of 75 percent over the previous year, while exports to the US grew over 10 percent.

Talking about recent economic crisis and students being denied scholarships by few universities, Payne said: “May be it is harder to get scholarship now than it was before. This is natural whenever there is any financial change like this. That does not mean there aren’t any opportunities.”

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