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Walmart continues lobbying with US lawmakers on FDI in India

Press Trust of India
Apr 23, 2013 at 03:38pm IST

Washington: Walmart continued to lobby with the American lawmakers over Indian retail FDI rules during the first quarter of 2013, even as a probe is underway into the global retail giant's US lobbying activities for facilitating its India entry.

In its latest lobbying disclosure report filed with the US Senate and the House of Representatives for the quarter ended March 31, 2013, the various lobbying issues of Walmart during the period included "discussions related to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in India".

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During the quarter, Walmart lobbied on close to 50 issues before various government departments and agencies and spent a total amount of USD 1.84 million on these activities, shows the 17 page lobbying report filed on April 22, 2013.

The other lobbying issues were related to overseas investments, tax-related matters, cybersecurity, data security and privacy issues related to e-commerce, immigration reforms, "discussions regarding retail sales practices, compliance, and background check process related to firearms transactions", and issues related to domestic sourcing and manufacturing.

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Despite an intense political opposition, India in 2012 approved 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, paving way for Walmart and other global retailers to set shop in India. However, many global companies are still concerned over various clauses in the regulations, which include certain amount of sourcing being made mandatory from within the country. Besides, the state government and union territories have been allowed to take their own decisions on whether or not to allow FDI in their respective areas.

Amid a continuing political debate on FDI in multibrand retail sector, the disclosures about Walmart's lobbying activities in the US for facilitating its entry into India created a major controversy in December 2012, leading to the government ordering a probe into the matter.

A one-man inquiry committee was set up in January to investigate the lobbying disclosure reports and was asked to submit its report by April 30, 2013. However, the government last week decided to extend the tenure of this probe panel by one month till May 31.

Set up under former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana Court Justice Mukal Mudgal, the panel in its last meeting earlier in April sought fresh details from the US-based global retailer and said that investigations might take some more time to be completed.

Earlier also it had sought clarifications on various issues from Walmart. Besides lobbying disclosure reports, the committee is also looking into "whether Walmart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law", and any other matter relevant to this issue.

The company has denied any wrongdoings in its lobbying activities in the US and has said that the disclosures have been made as per the legal framework there. Lobbying is legal in the US, but the companies and their lobbyists are required to make a quarterly disclosure about it to the Congress.

The panel, to which the Corporate Affairs Ministry is providing administrative support, has also discussed responses received to a public notice, wherein information was solicited from the general public on the matter.

As per Congressional records of lobbying disclosure reports, Walmart spent a total amount of USD 6.13 million (about Rs 33 crore) on lobbying for various issues, including on "discussions related to FDI in India", during entire 2012. Separately, the regulatory agencies here are also probing allegations of bribery against Walmart in India.

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