No trade deal for Trump | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 26, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 07:18 PM, February 26, 2020

No trade deal for Trump

US clinches $3b military equipment sale

US President Donald Trump concluded a showy state visit to India yesterday with plenty of impressive photos but without major announcements on trade or security.

Trump departed having cemented his close friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, upon whom he lavished praise during public appearances over the course of his 36-hour visit.

But Trump was frank that Modi puts up a tough trade fight and that their disagreements on tariffs and deficits wouldn't be resolved in the near-term.

US-Indian trade relations have worsened in recent years as Trump's "America First" aim of reducing deficits has collided with the "Make in India" mantra of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Speaking at the end of a short tour that saw him hold hands at the Taj Mahal with First Lady Melania and address a huge rally, Trump said only that they had made "tremendous progress" towards an accord.

"The United States has to be treated fairly and India understands that," he told a news conference, saying that "if a deal happens with India, it will be towards the end of the year."

While minor compared to his battle with China, Trump has slapped tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium and suspended duty-free access for certain goods in an effort to cut the $25 billion US trade deficit with Asia's third-biggest economy.

Under pressure to deliver ahead of his November reelection battle, Trump has pressed for greater access to the vast Indian market of 1.3 billion people for US dairy producers and makers of medical goods.

But Modi, battling to fire up a slowing economy hampered by inflation and a widening budget deficit, has responded with higher tariffs on US goods including $600 million worth of Californian almonds.

Arriving on Monday Trump hailed India and its "tremendously successful" but "very, very tough" Modi at the rally of some 100,000 people inside the world's largest cricket stadium in Modi's home state Gujarat.

Yesterday, Trump sat down for one-on-one talks with Modi followed by delegation-level meetings to try and move forward on issues that have divided the two countries, mainly a festering trade dispute.

After those meetings, Trump said his visit had been productive, with the conclusion of deals to buy US helicopters for the Indian military. India will buy 24 SeaHawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin equipped with Hellfire missiles worth $2.6 billion and plans an order for six Apache copters.

India is modernising its military to narrow a gap with China and has increasingly turned towards the United States over its traditional supplier, Russia.

But behind the bonhomie they remain far apart on a trade deal between the world's biggest economy and its second most populous nation, dashing earlier speculation of a possible partial compromise that would have seen India lowering tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and other items.

"Harley-Davidson has to pay tremendous tariffs when they send motorcycles in here. When India sells motorcycles into the US there is virtually no tariff... That's unfair," Trump told a news conference.

"I want reciprocal, it has to be reciprocal," he said.

The two countries had initially planned to produce a "mini deal," but that proved elusive.

Instead, both sides are now aiming for a bigger package, including possibly a free trade agreement.

Trump said he also discussed with Modi, whom he called his "dear friend," the importance of a secure 5G telecoms network in India, ahead of a planned airwaves auction by the country.

The United States has banned Huawei Technologies, arguing the use of its equipment created the potential for espionage by China - a claim denied by Huawei and Beijing - but India, where telecoms companies have long used network gear from the Chinese firm, is yet to make a call.

In New Delhi, Trump was given a formal state welcome on Tuesday at the red sandstone presidential palace, with a 21-cannon gun salute and a red-coated honour guard on horseback on a smoggy day.

India is one of a handful of countries where Trump's personal approval rating is above 50% and Trump's trip received wall-to-wall media coverage, with commentators saying he had hit all the right notes on his first official visit to the world's biggest democracy.

They were also effusive in their praise for Modi, for pulling off a spectacular reception for Trump.

"Modi-Trump hug gets tighter," ran a headline in the Times of India.

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