Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Friday, September 26, 2008

"US Congress Should Back U.S.-India Nuclear Power Deal", says Jeff Immelt

Congress should back U.S.-India nuclear power deal according to Jeff Immelt, the chief executive officer of General Electric Co. Over now to Jeff Immelt.

In the U.S.-India agreement on civilian nuclear-power cooperation, Congress has the opportunity to create thousands of U.S. high-tech jobs, to encourage adoption of the safest, non-polluting energy-generation technology and to help solve the energy needs of India's 1 billion people. It also would solidify relations with a key democratic ally.

In a time of market turmoil and economic instability, this is a remarkable opportunity for the U.S. and a rising economic partner. It must not be missed. Congress should approve the agreement as soon as possible.

Finding a solution to India's mounting energy needs is more important than ever. As one of the world's fastest-growing economies, India has an escalating power demand that is straining international energy supplies. Unchanged, this demand will be met with a greater reliance on fossil fuels, squeezing global oil prices while exacerbating greenhouse-gas emissions.

India understands this. So does the international Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, those countries seeking to contribute to non-proliferation through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear-related exports.

Earlier this month, the NSG waived a 34-year ban on nuclear technology trade with India, giving it access to nuclear services from suppliers around the world. For the U.S., there remains one problem: Without congressional approval, the NSG waiver is moot, as U.S. firms and their employees will, by law, be forced to sit on the sidelines.

Reactor Construction

The agreement is good for the U.S.-India relationship, good for global energy policy and security and good for U.S. jobs. It opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India -- especially given the ambitious nuclear-plant construction program planned by India. About 30 domestic and foreign-supplied reactors may be built by 2030 alone.

As chief executive officer of a company making this technology, I want to retain and hire those workers who can build the products that will help India realize its future. Preventing U.S. companies from competing with international suppliers isn't sensible policy. It risks thousands of high-paying jobs and would diminish the U.S.'s ability to participate in India's peaceful nuclear-power development.

Refusal to approve this agreement would also miss an opportunity to expand the broader U.S.-India trade relationship.

Lackluster Trade

For decades, trade between these two great democracies was lackluster. In 2000, the U.S.'s bilateral goods trade with India was around $14 billion -- less than our trade with Ireland or Venezuela. Today, thanks to concerted efforts by the U.S. and Indian governments, bilateral trade has almost tripled. Still, this is far less than it should be for two of the world's most dynamic economies.

Because nuclear energy can meet so many of India's energy and economic needs, this trade agreement has significance that resonates beyond a single industry. The agreement, if adopted, will strengthen the economic, strategic and diplomatic ties between the world's two largest democracies. To fail to approve the agreement would undermine the goodwill generated in India by U.S. efforts to conclude an agreement.

The U.S. government, and Congress specifically, deserve praise for their hard work in getting us to this point. After all, it was Congress that voted, overwhelmingly and on a bipartisan basis, to support the launch of negotiations two years ago. Now Congress must do its final part by approving this agreement expeditiously. A signed U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement will signal a new era in U.S.-India relations. This is a rare opportunity that must not be missed

Now back to Dondu N. Raghavan. The Indian Prime Minister is to be congratulated for having played his cards properly and got the NSG approval. At this juncture, even in the worst scenario of the US congress not ratifying the deal, India can now freely approach other suppliers. It is now really in the interest of the US to get the deal ratified and become an important supplier to India. The pressure is now on the US.

Let us now worry about India's interests and let the US do its thing or lose out to other supplier countries.

I thank my friend Mr. Jayakamal for having brought this to my notice.

Dondu N. Raghavan