Reliance Industries terminates US lobbying

Reliance Industries terminates US lobbying

Reliance Industries terminates US lobbying

Amid a huge uproar over lobbying by American firms to gain access to Indian market, India's leading corporate house Reliance Industries has terminated its lobbying activities among the US lawmakers after having spent nearly 2 million dollars (over Rs 10 crore) to its lobbyist here in the past four years.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries (RIL) began lobbying among the US lawmakers through leading lobbyist firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC (BGR), in January 2009 for its business activities and other causes.

However, the company had put on hold its lobbying activities here for the past five quarters and it has now terminated its lobby registration itself in the US.

The company, which has been expanding its presence in global markets, including the US, in the recent years and has interests in businesses ranging from energy, polyester and retail to telecom back in India, has paid a total amount of USD 1.88 million (over Rs 10 crore) to its US lobbyist since January 2009.

According to its latest lobbying disclosure report dated January 18, filed with the US Senate through BGR, it terminated its lobbying registration with the US authorities on January 11.

The disclosure further mentioned that there was "no lobbying issue activity" during the last quarter, which ended on December 31, 2012. This was the fifth consecutive quarter when BGR reported 'no lobbying activity' for its client RIL among the US lawmakers.

Lobbying in the government departments and other institutions is a legal activity in the US, but all the registered lobby firms are required to make a disclosure every quarter about the payments received by them, as also the details of their lobbying activities.

BGR also happens to be the lobbyist for the Indian government, as also the software industry body Nasscom, another major Indian entity doing lobbying in the US. Nasscom is currently lobbying in the US through one more lobbyist, the Lande Group.

The Indian government and Nasscom continued their lobbying activities in the US unabated during the last quarter and paid USD 180,000 (about Rs 1 crore) and USD 100,000 respectively to their lobbyists between October and December 2012.

Last month, disclosures about huge lobbying spending incurred by US-based global retail giant Wal-Mart Stores in the US on various issues including its entry into the Indian market generated a heated political debate in India.

A number of US companies have been lobbying in the recent past with their own lawmakers to seek their help in pushing further their business interests in India, which is emerging as a major market for various businesses for global companies.

Similarly, some Indian companies have also been lobbying for their business interests among the US lawmakers for past few years while Reliance Industries has been one of the major Indian entities lobbying there.

In the recent years, RIL has expanded its presence in the US and other foreign countries, while the US government's policies are as such said to have significant implications for most of the large corporations across the world.

On RIL's  behalf, BGR has lobbied with the US Senate, House of Representatives, Department of State and the US Government Accountability Office, among others.

BGR has lobbied for RIL in the areas of 'domestic and foreign trade' and has provided "strategic counsel on issues related to trade", as per its lobbying disclosure reports.

In the first eight quarters of its lobbying activities (from 2009 to 2010) in the US, RIL had paid USD 190,000 every quarter, while the payments made to BGR later dropped to USD 120,000 in the last three quarters (between January to September 2011) when some lobbying work was done.

The Indian government has paid its lobbyist close to USD five million (about Rs 25 crore) since it began lobbying in the US in September 2005. It has paid USD 180,000 (about Rs one crore) every quarter to its lobbyist for more than two years now.

On behalf of the Indian government, BGR has lobbied at the US Senate, House of Representatives, US Trade Representative (USTR), Department of State and Department of Commerce in the area of bilateral relationship between the two countries, while its lobbying issues in the past have included the US-India civil nuclear deal.

In case of Nasscom, its main lobbying areas now include visa and employee immigration issues of various Indian IT companies, which have a significant market in the US.
For the quarter ended December 31, 2012, Nasscom paid USD 70,000 to BGR, while its other lobby firm Lande Group got USD 30,000 for this period. Similar amounts were paid to the two lobby groups in the previous two quarters as well.

Nasscom has been lobbying in the US for about ten years and figures among the Indian entities having indulged in such activities for the longest so far. Its total lobbying bill since 2003 exceed USD 4 million.

Other Indian entities having indulged in lobbying activities in  the US in the past include industry bodies like the Carpet Export Promotion Council, the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, CII, Forum of Pet Manufacturers, as also corporates like L&T, Sun  Pharma, Wipro, Tatas, SAIL, Gujarat Flurochemicals, Flyington Freighters and Orchid Chemicals.