US says FDI in retail discussed, CM denies

Kolkata: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s much-hyped visit to Kolkata today ended with the Americans stating that the issue of US investments in retail sector had come up during her meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee which she and her government denied. Clinton, who had arrived here yesterday, said at an interactive session with school children that FDI in retail was on the agenda of talks with Banerjee, who played a leading role in stalling Centre`s attempts to open up the multi-brand retail sector.

The top US diplomat, who had an hour-long meeting with Banerjee, discussed a range of issues including stepping up US investments in the state, according to a US consulate statement here. "Touching on issues, ranging from increasing US investment in West Bengal, including in the retail sector, US-India relations, regional affairs and strong people-to- people connections, the Secretary reaffirmed to the chief minister the US desire to work with India and West Bengal to deepen and broaden our partnership," it said.

The state government, however, said Clinton did not mention FDI in retail during her interaction with the chief minister. "I would like to state on behalf of West Bengal government that the US Secretary of State did not mention FDI in retail when speaking to the chief minister.

"There was no further discussion on this specific subject at all," state Finance Minister Amit Mitra said in a communication to the US consul-general in Kolkata Dean Thompson, a copy of which was released to the press tonight. "I urge you unequivocally and strongly that the mention of investment in retail sector be avoided in your press statement," Mitra said.

The chief minister, while briefing reporters at Writers` Buildings after her meeting with Clinton, said that FDI in retail sector and Teesta water sharing issues did not figure in the discussion. "Let me tell you very clearly that Teesta, no. FDI in retail, no. They did not raise them, nor were they discussed. Only development issues were discussed," the chief minister said responding to persistent queries from reporters.