I happen to like PM Modi a lot: Trump ahead of India visit

US President Donald Trump has said that his country is not treated well by India when it comes to trade ties.

“We’re not treated very well by India,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in the US on Tuesday afternoon (local time). But he praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he is looking forward to his visit to India.

“I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot,” said Trump who is coming to India on a two-day visit on February 24.

“He told me we’ll have seven million people between the airport and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it’s going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it’s going to be very exciting… I hope you all enjoy it,” he told reporters.

Ahead of the visit, negotiators have been trying to put together a limited accord giving the US greater access to India’s dairy and poultry markets and lowering tariffs on other products. But no breakthrough has yet been announced and a planned trip by United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was cancelled, underlining the difficulties the two sides face in narrowing differences.

Since Trump took office in 2017, long-standing trade differences between the two countries have come to the fore, with Trump calling India the tariff king.

The two have warred over everything from tariffs on farm goods to Harley Davidson motorbikes and price caps on medical devices and India’s new rules on local data storage.

The US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) said in a report that the latest quarterly data depict continuation of overall positive bilateral trade trends. The third quarter data, however, reflects some downslide in growth rates.

The US exported US $45.3 billion worth of goods and services to India in the first three quarters 2019, up four per cent from the corresponding period in the previous year; and imported US $65.6 billion worth of goods and services from India, up five per cent from the previous year’s US $62.5 billion level for the same period, it said.

The USISPF further projected that the total bilateral trade can touch US $238 billion by 2025 if the current 7.5 per cent average annual rate of growth sustains; however, higher growth rates can result in bilateral trade in the range of US $283 billion and US $327 billion.

Trump, meanwhile, said that he is saving the big trade deal with India for later. “We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India,” the US President said.

What the two countries could sign during Trump’s visit is a “trade package”, according to media reports.

The United States is India’s second largest trade partner after China, with their goods and services trade hitting a record $142.6 billion in 2018. While the bilateral trade between US and India is approximately 62 per cent in goods and 38 per cent in services, the bilateral trade between India and China is dominated by goods.

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