After American president Donald Trump arrived in Ahmedabad of west India on February 24, he announced the two countries will sign a multibillion arms deal the next day but didn’t seem eager to address their thorny trade disputes.
Trump sets the tone for US-India trade deal
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, around noon on February 24, starting his first official visit to India after taking the office.
Trump gave a speech at a stadium that was said to be able to accommodate 110,000 people. He set the tune for the tricky US-India trade disputes with the wording that “India and US are in the early stages of discussion for an ‘incredible trade agreement’.”
A limited trade agreement has been expected to be inked during Trump’s visit to India, in which India will make trade concessions in exchange for resuming, at least partially, Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) treatment from US.
But just days before his visit, Trump said that he might strike a grand bargain on trade with India after the presidential election in November 2020. A senior official in the Trump administration admitted February 21 that no limited trade deal will be signed during the two-day visit as Washington still has many concerns over India’s high trade barriers.
US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer wasn’t among Trump’s retinue this time. He called off the trip in mid-February and talked with Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, on the phone instead.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on February 20 that New Delhi is in no hurry to strike a trade deal with Washington and will not set a deadline.
The US is India’s second largest trading partner. The Trump administration imposed tariffs on India-made steel and aluminum products in 2018 and canceled its GSP treatment last June, affecting more than USD5 billion worth of Indian exports to the US. In response, India imposed tariffs on a variety of American goods too.
According to reports by Reuters, the US-India disputes focus on whether India should open up its poultry meat and dairy market and relax the price regulation on medical devices.
Arms sale is the priority
On the contrary that Trump wasn’t in a hurry to sign a trade deal, he predicted on February 24 that the two nations are scheduled to sign a USD3-billion arms sales contract the next day.
"I'm pleased to announce that tomorrow our representatives will sign deals to sell the absolute finest state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces," said Trump.
Russian media Sputnik reported February 24 that Indian Cabinet Committee on Security approved earlier this month a USD 2.6-billion order to purchase 24 MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters from Lockheed Martin, and New Delhi is also reportedly planning to spend USD900 million purchasing six AH-64E Apache armored helicopters from Boeing.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) predicted that the representatives of both sides will also discuss the prospects of providing New Delhi, the Indian capital, with missile defense systems that may cost as much as USD1.9 billion.
Trump said on February 24 that the United States should be India's premier defence partner, which sounded like a warning for India to rely less on Russia for weapon import.
As the largest weapon provider for India, Russia signed a more than USD5-billion contract with India in 2018 to supply five sets of S-400 air-defense missile systems, which has prompted the US to give repeated warnings that it may impose sanctions on India if New Delhi continues to buy Russian equipment.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is Du Juan. The article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.