By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Debadutta Dash is a community leader interested in building a 7,456-mile-long bridge.
In 2007, he just wanted to build cooperation among different Asian American communities in Washington state. Now, the co-chair of the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC) has set his sights on connecting Washington state and the state of Orissa in India.
The official launch of WASITRAC’s trade delegation to India will be held on June 28 in Bellevue, giving Washington’s small and medium businesses a chance to learn about opportunities in Orissa.
Ambassador Susmita Thomas, consul general of India, will be the keynote speaker at the event.
The delegates are going to India Nov. 12–24 because they hope to increase sea trade between the Port of Seattle and India as well as overall trade for other businesses in the state. They will be led by U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington), Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, and Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani.
Trade between the U.S. and India is growing, marked by steady increases in the past five years. Imports from India to the U.S. rose from $11.5 billion in 2003–2004 to $20.7 billion in 2007–2008.
“When you have needs on both sides, then a partnership and collaboration really become fruitful, and doing this at the government level will lay the foundation stone for a consistent, long-term relationship. So, that is the goal of WASITRAC,” Dash pointed out.
“I had already done the research [in 2007]. The Port of Seattle has 65 percent of its sea trade with China,
Japan, Korea, Vietnam together. And with India, it was less than one percent,” he added.
WASITRAC invites Washington businesses in such fields as agriculture, biotechnology, energy, disaster management, higher education, health care, and infrastructure development to join the trade delegation.
“We are [also] looking at a partnership in education. Orissa is a place of a lot of higher education institutions.
The capital city of Bhubaneswar, itself, has more than 30 engineering institutions. There are more than three medical colleges,” Dash said.
Orissa needs help developing its vocational studies in order to provide the skilled workforce necessary for infrastructure development. “That’s what our educational institutions can create over there,” said Dash.
As for the current relationship between Orissa and Washington, he says it makes sense to create a sister-state relationship between the two states because of the large number of jobs that can be created in Washington and the potential investments to be made in Washington by industries in Orissa.
After attending various meetings with Taiwanese, Japanese, and Chinese government officials in Seattle, he said, “I found that they have got tremendous businesses, and I thought that this would be the way we need to explore and establish a business relationship with India so that medium and small businesses also can play a role.”
The trip was specifically targeted to occur in November to take advantage of “the best time, the best weather,” he said. More importantly, it will allow the delegates to also attend the India International Trade Fair in New Delhi.
Three days of the trip will focus on Orissa, located on India’s Southeast Coast near the Bay of Bengal and rich in such natural and mineral resources as chromite, bauxite, iron ore, and coal.
After Dash and WASITRAC co-chair Habib M. Habib met with Lt. Governor Brad Owen, Owen said in an April 23 statement, “The state of Orissa has 300 miles of coastline and the deepest seaport in India at Dhamra, making it strategically located near ports in China, Japan, and Korea and an easy stop for ships laden with Washington exports. … I believe stronger trade ties with India are a natural outcome of an increasingly important bond with that country.”
“In my 13 years as lieutenant governor, I have had the good fortune to lead many missions overseas to help the state explore new opportunities in trade and culture with other countries,” said Owen. “While I don’t look for missions to go on, I do carefully consider each invitation from other governments and associations and weigh them in interest of potential benefit to our state before making a commitment to travel. This one has great potential for benefiting our state.” ♦
For more information about the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee’s international trade mission to Orissa, go to www.wasitrac.org.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.