Amid Trump’s first official visit, India aims to strengthen U.S. ties

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official visit to India was labeled a “strategic success” but left little tangibles on the trade table at the end of it all.

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After his 36-hour trip, the U.S. and India signed a deal worth U.S. $3 billion for military equipment, including Apache and MH-60R helicopters.

On the energy front, ExxonMobil signed a deal to further improve India’s natural gas distribution network so that the country was able to accept even more U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) exports, the White House in a statement after the visit.

The statement added that the U.S. president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were working toward a trade pact that “reflects the full potential of the economic relationship” between both the nations.

Trump was at pains to explain at many meetings during his two-day visit that both nations were working at hammering out a major trade deal, which he said will be announced soon. Critics of the Modi government said the visit failed to produce anything concrete by way of furthering trade ties between the two countries.

Before signing on the dotted line, it is evident that both sides want better terms on items such as agricultural products, medical devices and even motorbikes (e.g., Harley-Davidson).

The White House statement, titled “President Donald J. Trump is strengthening our strategic partnership with India,” said, “The United States and India benefit from strong economic ties that advance prosperity, investment and job creation in both countries.

The U.S. is now India’s largest trading partner, ahead of China, with India representing the U.S.’s ninth-biggest trade relationship. By the end of 2018, trade between the two countries exceeded U.S. $142 billion.

Trump’s visit to India came at a time when the latter is on an economic slowdown.

The International Monetary Fund recently cut India’s growth forecast for this year by 1.2 percentage points down to 5.8%.

On the positive side, India is a growing destination for American energy exports. Modi and Trump identified energy as a vital part of the strategic cooperation between the two nations. India’s oil minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, said India was now the fourth-largest export destination for U.S. crude and the fifth-largest buyer of LNG from the U.S., LiveMint reported.

India is looking at the U.S. for energy supplies as part of a strategy to diversify its crude and gas sources, thus giving New Delhi more bargaining power while dealing with traditional suppliers. In the last four years, the total energy trade between the two nations amounted to $20 billion.

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Analysts in India are now looking forward to a new trade deal to be signed between the two countries, with many wondering about the timing – that is, will it come before the U.S. elections or after?

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