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Silicon Valley CEOs get Biden, Modi pitch to invest in India

President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable with American and Indian business leaders alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with some of the most powerful executives in Silicon Valley at the White House on Friday, as the two leaders sought to boost economic cooperation on artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing.

The gathering in the East Room of the White House included Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, and Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook — who is assembling more units of his company’s iPhone on the subcontinent as part of a shift from manufacturing in China. Cook was seated next to Modi in the meeting.

The Biden administration is increasingly courting India as a key ballast against China, particularly amid COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions, intellectual property theft, and concerns that Beijing may push forward with efforts to reunify with tech and semiconductor hub Taiwan.

India is also eager to become a key partner on critical technologies, with Modi announcing this week he was working to remove regulatory constraints, particularly for tech companies, in a bid to make it easier for U.S. firms to invest there.

“Our countries are taking taking innovation and cooperation to a new level,” Biden said. “Thanks in large part to the folks around this table.”

He encouraged the executives to take an active role in strengthening economic ties between the two nations, including by speaking to other corporate leaders and alerting the administration to regulatory obstacles.

“We need your help, and I’m talking to CEOs around this table, Indian and American, we need your help to seize the moment, to help manage the risks to our societies, our economies, and to our nation’s national security,” he said. “Innovation and collaboration are rarely without obstacles, and so you raise our ambitions and I want you to let us know what stands in the way of our ambitions.”

On Thursday, the president and prime minister capped a state dinner for India with a slew of economic deals, including plans for Micron Technology Inc. to invest more than $800 million toward a $2.75 billion semiconductor assembly and testing facility in India. Applied Materials Inc. announced a new semiconductor center for commercialization and innovation, while chip manufacturer Lam Research is announcing a training program in India for up to 60,000 engineers.

Other attendees at the meeting included Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lisa Su and Revathi Advaithi, the chief executive of multinational manufacturing giant Flex Ltd.

The discussion Friday also touched on emerging concerns over the use of artificial intelligence, as the Biden administration is readying regulatory safeguards related to the emerging technology.

Generative artificial intelligence tools have come under increased scrutiny as their popular use has exploded in recent months following the debut of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Microsoft has incorporated AI technology into its Bing search product, and Google released its rival Bard chatbot in March. OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman was among the participants at the meeting.

“We need your help to build guardrails around emerging technologies so they’re trustworthy, they’re secure and uphold our shared values and human rights,” said Biden.

The White House has said it expects leading artificial intelligence firms to roll out their own security and bias safeguards in the near future, as the Commerce Department undertakes a longer regulatory review that could require AI models to go through a certification process before release.

The Federal Trade Commission says it’s also monitoring the use of artificial intelligence tools, and the White House has backed efforts on Capitol Hill to introduce legislation directly governing the industry.

The conversation Friday was also expected to touch on efforts by the U.S. and India to better align their space programs, with NASA astronaut Sunita Williams among those in attendance.

Modi announced Thursday India’s plans to sign the Artemis Accords, a framework signed by two-dozen nations — but not Russia or China — governing joint missions and civilian space exploration. NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization have also agreed to a joint mission next year to visit the International Space Station.

Modi met with SpaceX chief Elon Musk in New York on Tuesday.


© 2023 Bloomberg News

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