India slashes US lobbying; American groups step up efforts

india usWASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: The Indian government seems to have drastically cut down its lobbying amongst the US lawmakers as the payment made to its registered lobby firm has dipped to the lowest in more than seven years.

On the other hand, several US-based entities including corporates like Boeing as also some industry groupings – such as Alliance for Fair Trade with India (AFTI) and Chamber of Commerce of the USA – have stepped up their lobbying with the American lawmakers on India-related issues, as per their latest lobby disclosure reports.

While AFTI lobbied on “issues relating to difficulties the US businesses are having doing business in India”, the “specific lobbying issues” for Boeing include broader topics like “US-India relations” and “India trade issues”.

The ‘lobbying issues’ covered by the US Chamber of Commerce included “promotion of US-India defense technology and partnership encouraging US and India to take actions that are necessary to enhance defense relations”, as also “nomination of Kenneth Ian Juster to be Ambassador to India”.

Other lobbying issues for this industry body include bilateral investment treaty negotiations with India, IP- related issues, as also economic and commercial relations between the two countries.

According to the latest lobbying disclosure report filed by BGR Government Affairs, which lobbies in the US on behalf of India, it was paid less than USD 5,000 (about Rs 3.25 lakh) as “income relating to lobbying activities” for the quarter ended September 30.

This included “all payments to the registrant (BGR) by any other entity for lobbying activities on behalf of the client (Republic of India),” as per the disclosure report dated October 20 filed with the US Senate and the US House of Representatives.

This is the lowest lobbying ‘income’ received by the firm from the Indian government since April-June period of 2010, the last quarter when the figure was below USD 5,000.

As per the latest disclosure, BGR Government Affairs lobbied on behalf of the Indian government on issues relating to “bilateral US-India relations” during the last quarter at the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, Department of Commerce, Department of State and the US Trade Representative.

All lobbyist firms need to get registered in the US for undertaking any lobbying activities and file quarterly disclosures including about the payments received, specific issues for lobbying and the agencies approached by it.

While BGR has been lobbying is the US on behalf of the Indian government for several years, its income in this regard saw a significant fall in the third quarter from USD 120,000 in the previous quarter. This quarterly figure was USD 180,000 for each quarter before that since October-December 2010.

Before that, the Indian government had paid USD 60,000 to BGR in the third quarter of 2010 and less than USD 5,000 in the second quarter of that year, according to the disclosure reports filed over the years.

The latest disclosure report did not cite any reason for the decline in the quarterly payment.
The highest quarterly amount so far has been recorded in fourth quarter of 2009 when BGR was paid USD 200,000.

While the “specific lobbying issue” disclosed by BGR for Indian government has been “bilateral US-India relations” for many quarters now, it also used to lobby on “issues related to the civil nuclear agreement” till 2009.

BGR began lobbying in the US on behalf of India in late 2005. In its registration disclosure filed in October 2005, BGR had said it has been mandated to “provide guidance and counsel with regard to issues impacting bilateral relations between the United States and the Republic of India”.

Subsequently, in its year-end report for 2005, when BGR was paid a total amount of USD 240,000, the lobbyist disclosed that it “provided guidance and counsel with regard to issues impacting bilateral relations between the US and the Republic of India, including a potential civil nuclear agreement”.

Issues relating to bilateral relationship and civil nuclear agreement continued to be listed among “specific lobbying issues” in the reports for the years 2006-2009, after which the disclosed lobbying area has been limited to ‘bilateral US-India relationship’.

Since 2005-end, BGR has been paid a total amount of about USD 8 million (about Rs 50 crore at current exchange rate).

As per its website, BGR Group offers “an integrated suite of bipartisan lobbying, strategic communications and business solutions that help meet your challenges in a risky, ever- shifting and interconnected world.”

It further says that “BGR’s professionals can help you meet your lobbying, public relations and business goals in Washington, in state capitals and around the world”.

Founded in 1991, the group further claims that “no firm better understands the architecture of Washington than BGR” and it can give its clients “the hard data, insight and connections you need to meet your goals”.-PTI

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