Mumbai: President Barack Obama is announcing $10 billion in trade deals with India that are expected to help pay for 54,000 US jobs.
He’s also unveiling new export rules to make it easier for US companies to do business with the nation of 1.2 billion people. Some of the changes, including relaxing controls on India’s purchase of “dual use” technologies that could be used for civilian or military purposes, have been top priorities for the business community.
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Obama was to make the announcements Saturday in a speech to US and Indian business executives on the first day of his 10-day, four-country Asia trip. In the wake of Democrats’ midterm election losses, attributed partly to continued high unemployment in the US, the White House is working overtime to present Obama’s trip as singularly focused on US jobs and the domestic economy.
The commercial deals include the purchase of 33 737s from Boeing by India’s SpiceJet Airlines; the Indian military’s plans to buy aircraft engines from General Electric; and preliminary agreement between Boeing and the Indian Air Force on the purchase of 10 C17s.
For the most part, the deals were already pending, but the White House contends Obama’s visit to India helped finalize them. Officials said the deals would support 53,670 US jobs, but it was not clear how many, if any, new jobs would be created as a result.
The announcements were coming shortly after Obama arrived in Mumbai, where his first stop was at the Taj Mahal hotel to commemorate the 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people across the city. The president said he intended to send a signal by making Mumbai the first stop of the trip and by staying at the Taj, which was a target during the terror siege.
“The United States and India stand united,” he said. “We’ll never forget.”
But illustrating the difficulties of the U.S.-India relationship even as Obama began a trip aimed at strengthening it, Indian commentators quickly seized on the president’s failure in his spoken remarks to mention Pakistan. Pakistan was the home of the 10 assailants, the place where they trained and the base they used to launch the attack.
Pakistan is also India’s archrival -- but a linchpin for Washington and its allies in the war in Afghanistan.
After his remarks on the terror attacks, Obama visited a museum in a home where Mohandas Gandhi once lived.
The president is aware of sometimes being perceived as antibusiness in corporate America, and said after the elections last week that he wanted to change that perception. Much of Obama’s day Saturday appeared geared toward that goal.
Before his speech to the US-India Business Council, Obama met with CEOs. Reporters looked on as he again tied his mission to US job creation and proclaimed the importance of working with fast-growing economies. “No country represents that promise of a strong, vibrant, commercial relationship more than India,” the president said.
The White House also arranged for four American chief executives who are in India for the occasion to brief reporters traveling with the president. They talked up the importance of India as a trading partner and praised Obama’s decision to come to the country to underscore that point in person.
“India represents the 14th-largest trading partner of the United States. Why? With all of the opportunity, it should be so much bigger. And that’s what this opportunity is all about,” said Terry McGraw, chairman and chief executive of the McGraw-Hill Companies.
Obama was spending three days in India, his longest stretch yet in one country, a point US officials have been careful to emphasize as they play up the administration’s interest in nurturing the relationship. On Sunday he heads to New Delhi, the capital, where he will address the parliament.
After India, Obama is scheduled to travel to Indonesia, where he lived for four years as a youth. From there he goes to South Korea for a meeting of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations and then to Japan for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, before returning to Washington on 14 November, a day before the start of Congress’ lame-duck session.