US President Donald Trump said he was skeptical a trade deal would be inked with India when he visits the country later this month, suggesting that any new pact would only come after the 2020 election – if he wins, that is.
“We can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “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 president added that he happens “to like Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi a lot,” but said the United States was “not treated very well by India,” presumably referring to tariffs the country maintains on a number of American goods.
Though the ongoing trade negotiations have run into snags in recent weeks – with New Delhi resisting demands that it boost purchases of US agricultural goods, for example – India has made a number of moves to sweeten the pot for a deal.
Indian trade officials have signaled that they are open to dropping duties on certain US farm goods, and last week suggested a significant tariff cut for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, now taxed at 50 percent. An earlier proposal would see India buy $2.6 billion in helicopters from US arms producer Lockheed Martin, while the State Department has approved another $1.9 billion contract for US-made missiles, radars and training gear.
With Trump’s latest comments and negotiations on the rocks, however, those concessions may still be insufficient to obtain a deal of any size by next week – let alone a “very big” one – when the president is slated to meet with his Indian counterpart during a state visit.
Trade tensions between Washington and New Delhi reached new heights last year after the US pulled India from its “Generalized System of Preferences” (GSP), a mechanism that grants tariff exemptions to certain favored allies. While the decision was meant to encourage India to drop levies on US goods, it backfired, resulting in a number of retaliatory tariffs on dozens of American products.