U.S.-India Aviation Summit - Welcome Remarks
The Honorable Leocadia I. Zak, Director, U.S. Trade and Development Agency
October 30, 2013 — Good morning. On behalf of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program, and all of our sponsors and supporting organizations, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 2013 U.S.-India Aviation Summit.
Together with our U.S. industry and U.S. Government partners, USTDA is privileged to host the fourth Aviation Summit between our two countries. A little over seven years ago, I was fortunate to be in New Delhi for the launch of the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program. I am proud of the tremendous progress we have made since then, and look forward to our future success.
The strength of our current Program is evident in the group assembled here. We are honored to have with us such a high-level delegation from India, led by Minister Ajit Singh, who is joined by the senior leadership from India's civil aviation agencies. The group is accompanied by Ambassador Rao, who has been a tireless advocate for India and a great friend to USTDA. We are pleased that so many of you were able to join us just before you begin to celebrate Diwali. On behalf of all of your friends here in the U.S., Saal Mubarak!
We are also joined by many key leaders of the U.S. Government, including Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, TSA Administrator John Pistole, and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Their participation demonstrates the great value that the U.S. places on our relationship with India.
Finally, we are pleased to welcome the leaders of some of the fastest growing airlines, airports and aviation companies in India and the U.S. The ACP would not succeed without their leadership, and we are extremely grateful for their contributions.
This Summit comes at an important time in the development of India's aviation sector. Despite a challenging global economy, the aviation sector continues to promote economic growth, especially in India. Currently, fewer than two percent of Indians travel by air. But, by the end of this decade, India's air traffic is projected to grow almost four times today's levels, making it the third-largest domestic market in the world.
In order to respond to the opportunities and challenges that this kind of growth presents, India will need, among other things, improved infrastructure, enhanced air traffic control systems, and a highly trained workforce. All of this will require progressive policies, as well as effective collaboration between government and industry.
Fortunately, the public and private sectors in our countries complement each other in ways that facilitate this type of collaboration. After meeting with Indian business leaders during his last trip to India in 2010, President Obama remarked that "our countries are matched up in a way that allows for enormous win-win potential." To capitalize on this potential, our governments have sought ways to increase collaboration – often through public-private partnerships like the ACP. In fact, when Prime Minister Singh visited the White House last month, he and President Obama highlighted our ongoing civil aviation cooperation. They promoted this Summit as a means to address the need for expanding India's aviation infrastructure.
The Government of India recognizes that growth in the aviation sector means broader growth across the economy, and has already taken steps to enable investment and revise regulations. Last year, the Government approved higher levels of foreign investment in Indian airlines. As a result, new investments have recently been announced in both existing and new carriers. The Indian Government has also declared its intent to change its international flight regulations to allow more Indian carriers to enter international service.
The U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program is well-positioned to foster growth in the aviation market, and to facilitate the changes needed to support that growth. The ACP's industry membership has more than doubled since it was founded, and the Program now also includes members from a trade association and an aviation college. The ACP has leveraged the experience of these members, from both the public and private sectors, to support a wide variety of aviation development activities in India. These activities have helped to address development challenges, build technical capacity, and implement innovative technologies.
Since the ACP's programs launched in early 2008, U.S. companies have addressed numerous development challenges. They have worked with their Indian counterparts to upgrade infrastructure and improve safety at airports. And this past March, USTDA hosted a workshop in New Delhi to discuss a topic of growing emphasis: aviation security. As a result of this initial workshop, we are currently evaluating requests for security-focused technical assistance and pilot projects, which can demonstrate the value of U.S. technologies in India's operating environment.
USTDA and the ACP have also sought to increase technical capacity through training and the sharing of best practices. One of the ACP's first activities was an innovative training program that focused on improving high-density air traffic management operations at several Indian airports. After the training, USTDA sponsored a reverse trade mission to the United States for senior officials from India's aviation sector. Delegates reported that they learned significant ways to increase airport capacity, reduce airborne delays, and improve predictability. Since those initial activities, the ACP has continued its efforts to maintain and improve India's aviation efficiency.
USTDA has also worked with its ACP members to assist India in implementing several innovative technologies. In fact, before the ACP was formally established, USTDA responded to some of our key U.S. and Indian partners, who had identified a need for improved navigation. The Agency employed a variety of our program tools to assist India in implementing one of the world's most advanced satellite air navigation systems, known as GAGAN. As a result, India awarded a major contract to a U.S.-led consortium that is helping to implement GAGAN. When the system becomes operational next year, India will be the fourth region in the world to transition to this cutting-edge technology.
Our last Summit helped pave the way for innovative activities like this one. Two years ago, we had a productive dialogue about many important issues impacting the growth of our aviation systems. While we have made progress towards addressing those issues, there is still more to be done, and that is why we are here today.
Although we have many past examples of successful collaboration, there are also challenges ahead. India's rapidly changing aviation market presents challenges in the areas that I have already discussed, as well as in general aviation, helicopter services, and environmental impacts. This Summit has been designed to allow for in-depth discussion on many of these topics.
By using this forum to discuss ways to turn these challenges into opportunities, we will strengthen cooperation between India's aviation leaders and U.S. providers of technology and services. And we will continue to ensure that rapid growth in aviation benefits both of our countries.
During his most recent visit to the United States, Prime Minister Singh said, "India and America are working together to give our cooperation a new sense of purpose, widening and deepening in diverse directions. We are cooperating in expanding the frontiers of trade, investment and technology." The U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program has been – and will continue to be – a valuable vehicle for these efforts. We already have a sound sense of purpose, which has enabled us to achieve tangible success in strengthening India's aviation infrastructure. I hope that this Summit will allow us to deepen our collaboration so that we may continue to expand our bilateral trade. In doing so, our two countries can continue to address our shared challenges and celebrate our shared progress. Thank you.
 Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh in Joint Press Conference in New Delhi, India, November 08, 2010, available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/11/08/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-singh-joint-press-conference-.
 Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh of India after Bilateral Meeting in Washington, DC, September 27, 2013, available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/27/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-singh-india-after-bilateral-m.
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