Good Trading Partner for Louisiana?

November 25, 2009

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Thursday, November 25, 2009

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

JINDAL AND INDIA

A RARE OPPORTUNITY FOR LOUISIANA

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was the token Republican at the Obama first State Dinner this week.  It would be pretty crass for the President to exclude Jindal, the first and only Indian American Governor, from a state dinner honoring the Prime Minister of India. But both the opportunities and consequences of the dinner cannot be overestimated for Louisiana. 

It was the first face to face meeting Jindal has had with the Prime Minister of India.  And if Jindal is the smart Rhodes Scholar he has been touted to be, he has an enormous opportunity to move Louisiana onto the front burner of special relationships with the world’s largest democracy.  A country that is reaching out, worldwide, for both export and import opportunities.  If Jindal plays his cards right, Louisiana could be the bountiful beneficiary of a new and huge trading partner.

Jindal met the Prime Minister this week for the first time, and has more in common than just their mutual Indian heritage.  The leader of the world’s largest democracy, like Jindal, took a degree from Oxford University in England, and worked as a policy wonk in several government appointed positions.  Jindal therefore has a unique opportunity to develop a “special” relationship with the Indian leader that could give bountiful returns to Louisiana.

On Monday of this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singhspoke in Washington to the United States India Business Council, and made it clear India would do a significant amount of business in the United States. Here were his comments: “I am happy to say that American business has been part of India’s economic transformation. Most of the large American corporations are now present in India as foreign direct investors. Many are engaged in high technology work, with their Indian operations forming part of their global supply chains. US business in India has also groomed managerial and technical talent which they have liberally used for their global operations.”

The problem is that India, up till now, has had little trade flow or business ties with Louisiana.  India has become a major importer of products readily available in Louisiana, yet there has been only minor trading activity.Here is what this country needs to import: various petroleum based products including synthetic rubber imports and a vast array of chemicals and chemical related goods including synthetic fertilizers.  Louisiana of course has the largest concentration of chemical plants in the nation.  Coal has become a major import for this country.   Jim Welch, who heads up Louisiana’s permits division for natural resources, confirms that the state has a vast supply of lignite coal in Northwest Louisiana that is ripe for mining.

This country has become a major fruit importer, and is particularly looking for citrus. Oranges from Plaquemines parish and strawberries in southeast Louisiana have strong export potential. If increasing market opportunities became available, there could well be agriculture opportunities to produce apples, pears, figs, plums and a variety of other fruits. And don’t forget sugar. The India Daily newspaper reported recently that sugar prices in India have skyrocketed with forecasts of gloomy prospects for sugar production that Indian officials say could lead to a high import demand due to an output shortfall.This country also is importing cotton, soybeans, and animal hides for leather production.

  Do you see the correlation? One of the fastest growing economies in the world is actively seeking a litany of products that are available in mass quantities right here Louisiana. And all these imports would be a financial boon for Louisiana’s numerous ports.  Just last week, there were news reports of a 29% drop off in cargo passing through the Port of New Orleans.

A new SUV is just coming off the production lines in India called the Mahindra Scorpio.  It’s now being imported into the United States, but Indian officials have plans to produce the car in this country for the American market.  Louisiana dragged its feet in competing for a Toyota production plant that went to Mississippi and a Mercedes plant that went to Alabama.  Perhaps an aggressive selling job by a Louisiana governor who has a “special” relationship with the Indian Prime Minister might have a significant effect in closing such a deal for the Bayou State.

Louisiana’s largest fortune 500 company, The Shaw Group, has been actively seeking opportunities for its energy and chemicals division worldwide, and recently was awarded a contract to provide proprietary technology for an ethylene plant in China. Shaw would relish the chance to have doors opened for them in India.

In the first two years in office, international trade has not been a priority for the Louisiana Governor.  But when you have a special entree in to the world’s largest democracy that continues to prosper in spite of the present economy, Jindal has a real shot at opening up business opportunities for a number of Louisiana companies.  Here’s hoping he has the foresight to jump into the fray. 

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Four things come not back. The spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.

 ~ Arabian Proverb

 Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south.  To read past columns going back to 2002, go to www.jimbrownla.com.  

 


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