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U.S., India ink defense deals, but trade deal remains elusive

Published : 25 Feb 2020, 23:29

  DF-Xinhua Report

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Feb. 25, 2020. Photo Xinhua by Partha Sarkar.

India and the United States on Tuesday signed defense deals worth over 3 billion U.S. dollars, ensuring the sale of 24 "MH-60 Romeo" and six "AH-64E Apache" helicopters to India. However, the highly anticipated trade deal remained elusive.

   Addressing reporters after talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that he and Trump decided to give a "legal route" to the negotiations that have already taken place between the two countries' trade ministers recently.

   "We have an understanding for a big trade deal. I am sure that the talks between our trade ministers will yield good results. We have decided to give a legal route to their talks," said Modi.

   Modi noted that he and Trump both favored "open, fair and balanced trade" between the two sides.

   "In the past three years our bilateral trade growth has been in the double digits. Areas like energy, civil aircraft, defense and higher education have made an immense contribution of 70 billion U.S. dollars in the past four to five years," he told media alongside Trump.

   "Trump's policies and decisions have allowed all this to happen. I hope this would increase further," said Modi.

   The U.S. president was also confident about a possible trade deal with India at the joint press conference with Modi.

   "Our teams have made tremendous progress for a comprehensive trade agreement, and I am optimistic we can reach a deal of great importance to both countries," Trump said.

   "Since I took office, the U.S. exports to India have gone up by nearly 60 percent and exports of high-quality American energy have grown by 500 percent," said the U.S. president.

   While Trump has been repeatedly blamed globally for adopting "protectionist" policies, he has often called India a "Tariff King" for imposing high tariffs on American goods. He had been asking Modi to reduce tariffs on Harley Davidson motorcycles to zero as a reciprocal gesture.

   According to India's media group India Today, the U.S. negotiators pulled back at the last minute, telling India to "wait for a bigger deal."

   Quoting sources, the group's magazine said in an article that the two sides had got "pretty much of a handle" over the contentious issues that had stalled such a deal in the past.

   "They had worked on resolving a set of issues that dealt with lowering tariffs and providing market access on both sides in a range of sectors and then to create a package acceptable to both sides," it said.

   "This included the U.S.' demand for relaxing price restrictions on certain medical devices and India's demand that the U.S. restore the Generalised Systems of Preferences (GSP) that it had withdrawn last June. The GSP had allowed Indian manufacturers duty free exports of over 3,000 select products to the U.S."