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Reliance, Tata, Ranbaxy Hired Lobbying Firms In US

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Even as the government announced an inquiry into lobbying practices by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on 12 December' after a report that the giant retailer had pressed US lawmakers to help gain access to foreign markets, records with American House of Representatives show that around 27 Indian companies have spent money on lobbying in the US.
 
Read Also: Govt Launches Probe Into Wal-Mart Lobbying Report

The Indian companies involved in lobbying in the US for issues ranging from visa to exploring defence market include Reliance Industries Limited, Tata Sons, Ranbaxy Lab, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council among others.

Ranbaxy has paid $90,000 to the lobbying firm Patton Boggs for issues including "Preserve Access to Affordable Generics", according to a document registered in 2010.

Tata Sons had roped in Cohen Group for lobbying, according to a document from 2007, related to issues described as "market research in the automotive, defence and energy sectors". No amount was mentioned in the document.

Reliance Industries became a client of the lobbyist Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, according to a 2009 document, on the unspecified issue of "TRD", which could mean trade.

As per a 2010 document, Wipro spent $33,000 on lobbyist Melanie Carter-Maguire on issues relating to trade and visa.

Wipro roped in a lobbyist firm this year too but no amount has been mentioned.

Global retail giant Wal-Mart -- waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India -- has been lobbying with US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the Indian market.

As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Wal-Mart with the US Senate, it has spent close to $25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

The report spurred opposition lawmakers, who oppose Wal-Mart's entry into India, to call for an inquiry into whether any money was spent in India, even though the disclosure filing only referred to lobbying activities in the United States.
 
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told Parliament on 12 December that a retired judge would be appointed to lead an investigation "pertaining to Wal-Mart's lobbying".

Wal-Mart has found itself entangled in a fight between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's fragile minority government and political opponents determined to thwart supermarket reform which, they say, will destroy the livelihoods of millions of small store owners.
 
Opposition parties have sought to portray Singh's government as the pawn of powerful foreign companies ahead of national elections due in 2014.
 
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has been the most active among foreign supermarket operators keen to push their way into India's $450 billion retail market.
 
Despite a strong opposition to FDI in multibrand retail, the Indian government had managed to get parliamentary majority on the issue last week after much backroom politicking. Though the decision on FDI had been an executive one and did not need legislative stamp, it was widely considered a somewhat pyrhhic moral victory for the Congress-led UPA government.
 
Wal-Mart CEO To BE Patient
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke has said he will be "patient" and is confident that things will get worked out in India for the company, amid the political uproar in India over opening of the multi-brand retail sector as well as lobbying efforts by the retail giant.

"I still believe that in India things will get worked out.

I am confident that (India) is a country that has such an opportunity to help both the farmers, those that are producing products for consumers all the way through the supply chain to the consumer," Duke said at a Council on Foreign Relations event organised here yesterday on 'The Responsibility to Lead'.

He was responding to a question on how India fits into the international priority markets for Wal-Mart given the country's mixed response to opening of its retail sector.

The Wal-Mart President said having travelled to India a number of times, he "really feels for the people of India because the people of India are missing on the opportunity right now because of the inefficiencies of the supply chain and so many of the challenges.

"But I am patient and I believe that overtime the process will get worked out in India. That we can help people live a better life in India also," he added.

Duke said in the next 10-50 years, the emerging middle class in countries like India, China and Latin America will be the "real opportunity for Wal-Mart from a business standpoint".

"These big emerging markets where there are a lot of people, where there will be an emerging consumer over the next decade will be our greatest priority," he said.

The Indian government had yesterday offered to hold an inquiry into allegations of payment made by US retail giant Wal-Mart in India but it did not cut much ice with the Opposition which demanded a time-bound probe by either a Joint Parliamentary Committee or judiciary.