Policy

Trump sure of ‘fantastic’ deal, but after ‘tough negotiations’

Rutam Vora Amiti Sen Ahmedabad/New Delhi | Updated on February 24, 2020 Published on February 24, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents a memento of ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ to US President Donald Trump as First Lady Melania Trump looks on, during their visit to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, on Monday, February 24, 2020.   -  PTI

US President’s India visit begins with a mega ‘Namaste Trump’ show in Ahmedabad

US President Donald Trump on Monday exuded confidence about striking a “fantastic deal” with India on the trade front, but also expressed concern over the “tough negotiations”.

At the very start of his address at the Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Trump clarified that “serious” talks would take place in Delhi, and hinted that a “very major (trade deal)... among the biggest-ever trade deals” is in early stages of discussion.

Optimism on trade deal

“Over the course of my visit, Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and I will also discuss our efforts to expand the economic ties between the two countries... We are in early stages of a discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers for investments between the US and India,” he said.

“I am optimistic that working together, the Prime Minister and I can reach a fantastic deal that’s good and even great for both our countries. Except there is a very tough negotiation,” added the US President, who started his two-day India tour from Ahmedabad.

 

Though Trump could not connect fully to the audience of about 1.2 lakh people — mostly Gujarati-speaking college students, farmers, villagers, small traders, businessmen and women — his references in his half-hour speech to cricket icons Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli and Bollywood superhits such as DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and Sholay drew fulsome cheer.

Addressing the ‘Namaste Trump’ event, the President reiterated his earlier stance on the trade dialogue, seeking to first iron-out pending issues before striking a deal with India.

However, he did announce a $3-billion defence deal to sell “the absolute finest state-of-the-art helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces”, setting the tone for the crucial business day tomorrow in Delhi.

Focus to be on trade issues

A government official told BusinessLine: “There will most certainly be some announcement in the area of defence and energy. But trade issues, especially possible areas of cooperation and growth, will remain the focus area for the two countries.”

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, are likely to discuss market access issues holding up the India-US trade deal and also participate in joint discussions with top businesses from the two countries.

 

The US has been demanding greater market access in sectors such as medical equipment, dairy, farm products, IT, motorbikes and telecom. India, so far, has found these demands too ambitious to meet.

Washington also has issues with India’s decision to increase import duties on a number of products ranging from consumer electronics and IT to toys and furniture in the Union Budget for 2020-21.

“While in the bilateral talks the US will stress on the need for India to lower its import duties and other restrictions, New Delhi could make a case for restoration of the Generalised System of Preferences benefits that allowed duty-free access for certain products from India.

New Delhi has been arguing that the scheme benefited not just Indian exporters but also US companies, which could get their inputs from India at more competitive prices,” the official said.

Natural partners: Modi

Prime Minister Modi, in his speech at the Motera Stadium, underlined the significance of bilateral ties. “US-India ties will play an important role in setting the direction for the world, when new alignments, competition and new challenges are laying the foundation for transformation in the 21st century. I strongly believe that India and the US are natural partners. Not just in the Indo-Pacific region, but for the entire world, we can provide significant contributions to global peace, progress and security.”

Ashram visit

President Trump, First Lady Melania and family arrived at Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, where Modi gave them a red-carpet welcome.

After a guard of honour, the leaders’ cavalcade headed to Sabarmati Ashram. In the Ashram’s visitor book, Trump wrote a simple message: “To my great friend Prime Minister Modi -- Thank you for this wonderful visit!” The message was signed by Trump and the First Lady.

 

Published on February 24, 2020
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