The South Asian Times

25 April 2018 08:42 AM

Uncertainty after USIBC moves to split from US Chamber

Washington: The board of the US-India Business Council including CEOs of leading American companies has voted to peak away from the parent body, the US Chamber of Commerce, exposing many years of underlying tensions, including over policy priorities.

The severance has left the fate of the USIBC and its staff uncertain for the time being since the US Chamber has no intention of letting go of it, as was stated by its president and CEO Tom Donahue in a letter on Tuesday, Hindustan Times reported.

“The USIBC is a part of the Chamber, and the Chamber does not plan to transition it anywhere,” Donahue wrote in the strongly worded letter. He added sternly: “The USIBC has no separate existence and its board has no legal authority.”

If reconciliation efforts slated for next week don’t succeed, members of the USIBC appear prepared to start a separate body.

Donahue also announced that USIBC president Mukesh Aghi had stepped down last month and that the chamber had launched a search for his successor. Khush Choksy, a senior vice president at the chamber, will serve as interim president until then.

Aghi quit late last month, the day 29 members of the USIBC board voted to split with the chamber. They included Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, John T Chambers of Cisco, Ajay Banga of MasterCard and Warburg Pincus, co-chief executive Charles R “Chip” Kaye.

Started in 1975, the USIBC has emerged as a leading advocacy body on India-US trade, and is acknowledged so by the corporate sector and the governments of the two countries. It has hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice during his US visits, and US vice presidents Joe Biden and Mike Pence.

Hosting Pence at its annual leadership summit on June 27, the day after Modi met President Donald Trump, is understood to have provided the flashpoint that triggered the rupture.

The chamber was also keen to host Pence but at a separate event and the USIBC beat the chamber to it. Tensions simmering between the two bodies “reached boiling point” with differences over the dispute.

The chamber and the council had serious differences over some policy issues, going back several years — especially on market access, free trade issues and intellectual property rights, according to several past and present affiliates of the USIBC, according to a source cited by Hindustan Times. The Washington Post said that at the center was a fight over “turf and independence.”

Update: 14 July, 2017