Hyderabad: As undersecretary of commerce for international trade at the US department of commerce, Francisco J. Sánchez leads the International Trade Administration (ITA) that assists in the development of US trade policy and devises ways to support economic growth by promoting US companies.
Sánchez, a President Barack Obama appointee, was in India on a four-day visit leading a trade mission comprising clean technology companies. After participating in Solarcon India 2011, a solar-energy focused event in Hyderabad, Sanchez spoke on the economic slowdown in the US, the European financial crisis and business opportunities in India. Edited excerpts:
Clean energy drive: Francisco J. Sánchez.
How is the US economy recouping from the recession? What is the government doing to address the issue?
We are moving in the right direction. We have in the last 19 months created 2.6 million jobs. And just last week, we had a revision of our GDP growth over the summer. It grew at just under 2.5%. All of this represents an economy that is turning around.
However, it is turning around very slowly. And we need to do more. That’s why the President announced, just a few months back, the American Jobs Act. It’s a programme focused on creating, by independent estimates, upwards to two million jobs. And it involves an infrastructure bank, tax breaks for small and medium size companies. So, the President is very focused on continuing to help move the economy along and create jobs.
How is the European debt crisis impacting your economy and when do you see global trade returning to normalcy?
What I would say is the European crisis suggests the importance of lowering trade barriers, creating more trade opportunities in many parts of the world and creating business climates that are conducive to invest so that no one country is dependent on any particular region or country. One of the messages I have is, let’s look for ways to enhance two-way trade and enhance two-way investment.
How do you view the Occupy Wall Street protests in US right now? And is it unemployment that is creating unrest among the youth who have taken huge debts for college education?
Certainly, unemployment is a major contributing factor. I would say that the movement that you see, Occupy Wall Street, is illustrative of a lot of frustration particularly with financial markets. Many citizens saw friends, family members and in some cases themselves, lose a big part of their net worth and in many cases lose their houses and they felt that Wall Street had a lot to do with that. I think more than anything it’s the frustration that we have gotten ourselves into a challenging financial situation and we need to get out of it. We need to do it faster than we have.
You say that India’s protectionist policies in the solar energy field will affect the country in the longer term. Can you elaborate on this?
In our own country, we have used incentives, not restrictions, not creating any kind of mandatory requirements for investment or technology transfer. And in creating that open market, we had lot of foreign companies invest in our country. In the end, that has created jobs in the US. In the end, it benefits the consumer and also benefits our economies and likewise we would encourage India as they seek to develop a manufacturing base including in clean technology, that they adopt policies that are more analogous to open markets and level-playing fields.
How has the response been from solar energy producers in India, the industry bodies, government officials?
Our companies have been very well received. On the government side, I had a very productive meeting with my counterpart, (commerce) secretary (Rahul) Khullar. Like good partners, we have our differences. But, we know that the value of our relationships is so important that there is no difference that can stop our working together.
You have also spoken of the tremendous potential in India’s “next-tier” regions, how do US businesses plan to tap this opportunity?
It really is an opportunity. In the next 20 years, it is estimated that 68 cities in India will have a million or more in population. And each one of these metropolitan areas will have infrastructure needs, they will need power generation, they will need water treatment, they will need roads, they will need smart grid technology, they will need healthcare, education. The US can offer a lot of help in all of these sectors. We, at the department of commerce are doing everything we can to introduce to American businesses the opportunities that next-tier cities in India present.