Trump’s statement raises expectations of a breakthrough in India-US trade relations
Modi and Trump will be meeting twice in three days— at Houston and during UNGA in New York
New Delhi: US President Donald Trump has said there could be some announcement by him at the “Howdy Modi!" event in Houston on Sunday, where he will join Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a meeting of 50,000-strong Indian diaspora, a PTI report said.
“Could be. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi," Trump told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One on his way back from California to Washington DC. Trump was responding to a question if there would be any announcement when he goes to Houston for the rally with the Indian leader. He did not elaborate further, the PTI report said.
It was not clear what the announcement could be but it was speculated that it could be on a trade deal between India and the US given that commercial ties have become strained with Trump’s emphasis on reducing the $30 billion trade deficit with India. Trump has also expressed disappointment with high tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products that he has said were "no longer acceptable".
The White House on Monday announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally on September 22 as a "special gesture" by the US President to underscore the bond between the two countries.
It is for the first time that Trump and Modi would be sharing a stage together. The event is the third meeting between the two leaders in three months, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June and the G-7 summit in France last month.
On Monday, trade minister Piyush Goyal said India and the US are likely to announce a trade package during a meeting between Trump and Modi. "We are finalising the agreement. Whether president Trump and Prime Minister Modi announces it during their meeting is up to them," he told reporters.
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar also said on Tuesday “some of the sharper edges" of the relationship “would be addressed in some forms in the not too distant future, exactly which ones, all that is really the Commerce Minister’s remit".
He described overall ties with the US as “a glass which is 90 % full rather than a glass which is 10 % empty," with reference to “all the activities, the business deals which are taking place and take that really as the state of the relationship".
The minister also said “you cannot have trade problems is that if you don’t trade and trade problems, by the way, often happens with people you are closest to because actually it is with them that you do the most trade. So its trade problems are normal, in fact, in many ways they are reflective of the substantial relationship."
India-US bilateral relationship has been strained recently due to a host of trade and economic issues. India's exports to the US in 2017-18 stood at $47.9 billion, while imports were at $26.7 billion. The US in June terminated India's designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products including almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration revoked its preferential trade privileges.
But Indian officials have pointed out that New Delhi is a buyer of US energy and imports $4 billion of energy products and is looking at forging closer ties with the US in this area. Modi is expected to address an energy round table in Houston on Sunday.
Reacting to a record number of 50,000 Indian-Americans registering for the event, Trump said the crowd for the event has now become bigger after it was announced that he would be going there.
“He (Modi) has got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced – he asked, would I go, and I will go," Trump said according to the PTI report. After the Houston event, Trump is to travel to Ohio for an event with the visiting Australian prime minister.
“Then we're stopping in Ohio on the way back and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week," the President said.
Trump also said he has a great relationship with both India and Pakistan.
Modi will be visiting the US from September 21-27 for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It is his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in May.
The two leaders are again scheduled to meet later in the week in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session.
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