US lawmakers urge Trump to press India's Modi on trade, investment

Posted June 26, 2017

"The whole world is looking at India".

Modi's two-day visit to Washington, which starts Sunday, takes place amid uncertainty over the relationship because of differences on trade and other issues.

Among other CEOs present at the meeting were Shantanu Narayen from Adobe, Ajay Banga from Mastercard, David Farr from Emerson, Doug McMillon from Walmart, and Punit Renjen from Deloitte Global, Jim Umpleby from Caterpillar, Alex Gorsky from Johnson and Johnson, Jamie Dimon from J P Morgan Chase, and Marillyn Hewson from Lockheed Martin.

On the economy, India and US bilateral trade has almost doubled in the past decade, to $115 billion, but the trade deficit of $30 billion remains a matter of concern.

"Today, 1.25 crore people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari have resolved to do something for their country".

Regarding the energy partnership, Indian energy companies have signed over 32 billion dollars in long-term contracts for the export of United States liquefied natural gas, including from Maryland and Louisiana.

But after his landslide election victory, Modi built a strong rapport with Obama who became the first sitting USA president to pay a second visit to India when he attended the 2015 Republic Day celebrations.

Mr Trump has also had India's IT outsourcing giants in his sights over the tens of thousands of Indian workers they bring into the United States each year.

This inaugural meeting between the two leaders will test the waters, but Srikanth Kondapalli of Jawaharlal Nehru University told DW that given the "inward-looking policies" of the Trump administration reflected in the USA withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate deal, Modi's visit would "likely include specific bilateral issues", adding that "larger strategic issues would possibly not appear in the public domain". Trump posted on his official (@POTUS) Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said President Trump and Prime Minister Modi would have a very robust discussion when they meet at the White House.

Meanwhile, Indian officials reject suggestions that Modi's "Make in India" platform is protectionist and complain about the US regulatory process for generic pharmaceuticals and rules on fruit exports to the United States.

Puneet Ahluwalia, a Republican operative who was in the audience, said he found Modi's remarks on the surgical strikes a very clear enunciation of India's position on the issues.

The US decision to sell 22 Guardian drones to India - the first such American transaction with a non-NATO ally - reinforces the strong defence ties that the two nations have established over the last decade.

One US official said the two leaders had a "lot in common" and noted Modi would be the first foreign dignitary to have a working dinner at the White House under the new administration.

"That shows the kind of leaders they are: Both are innovators; both are business executives", said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the visit.

However, there are fundamental differences between them on issues including the H-1B visas, used by many Indian IT companies, and the Paris climate accord, which India supports and Trump has withdrawn the US from.

"I think that it would be wrong to say that this administration has been ignoring or not focused on India", a senior administration official had said.

Responding to a question about the H-1B visa program whose biggest recipient is India, the White House official said there are no plans to discuss the visa issue and that the U.S. administration has already signed executive orders relating to work and immigration. "But the external affairs ministry and Sushma Swaraj have set the best example of how a department can be strengthened through its use", Modi said in his address to the Indian diaspora during a community event in Virginia.