Washington: India has been hitting the US “very hard” on trade for many years with high tariffs, according to President Donald Trump who said he will “talk business” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first visit to the country.
President Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra, and New Delhi on February 24 and 25.
“I’m going to India next week and we’re talking trade. They’ve been hitting us very hard for many, many years,” Trump said at a ‘Keep America Great’ rally in Colorado on Thursday.
Trump told thousands of his supporters that he “really likes” Prime Minister Modi and they would be talking business.
“We’ve got to talk a little…We’ve got to talk a little business. It’s been hitting us hard. They give us tariffs, one the highest in the world is India,” he said.
Ahead of Trump’s visit, there have been reports on India and the US agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal.
Downplaying the expectation of a trade deal with India during his visit, Trump said the two countries could make a “tremendous” trade deal, but indicated that the talks on this might slow down if he did not get a good deal.
“We’re going to India, and we may make a tremendous deal there,” Trump said in his commencement address at the Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony in Las Vegas on Thursday.
“Maybe we’ll slow down. We’ll do it after the election. I think that could happen too. So, we’ll see what happens,” he said.
“But we’re only making deals if they’re good deals because we’re putting America first. Whether people like it or not, we’re putting America first,” Trump said.
The bilateral India-US trade in goods and services is about 3% of the US’ world trade.
In a recent report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said the trading relationship is more consequential for India – in 2018 the US was its second-largest goods export market (16% share) after the European Union (EU, 17.8%), and third-largest goods import supplier (6.3%) after China (14.6%) and the EU 28 (10.2%).
India is now the United States’ eighth-largest trading partner in goods and services and is among the world’s largest economies.
India’s trade with the US now resembles, in terms of volume, America’s trade with South Korea ($167 billion in 2018) or France ($129 billion), according to Council on Foreign Relations.
Trump spoke about his India visit at the Colorado rally and the grand welcome he is expected to get in the country.
“I hear, they are going to have 10 million people. They say anywhere from six to 10 million people are going to be showing up along the route to one of the largest stadiums in the world, the largest cricket stadium in the world, which is brand new and beautiful,” Trump said.
He said the “Namaste Trump” rally in Ahmedabad would spoil him.
“Prime Minister Modi said, we will have 10 million people greet you. Here’s my problem. We have a packed house. We have a lot of people, thousands of people that couldn’t get in. It’s going to look like peanuts from now on,” he said.
“I’ll never be satisfied with the crowd. If we have 10 million people in India, how can I be satisfied when we fill up like a 60,000 seat stadium? I am getting spoiled? He said to build a bigger stadium to visit,” Trump said.
One of his supporters from the audience suggested that he built a bigger stadium.
Trump indicated that his visit will result in more products “proudly stamped with the beautiful phrase ‘Made in the USA’.”
During the address, the president reiterated his recent conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “He (Zuckerberg) said, I just want to congratulate you. He said you’re number one in the world on Facebook. I said, no. I said, who’s number two? He said, Prime Minister Modi of India,” Trump said, adding that Modi has an advantage as he represents a larger population.
“I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. He’s got 1.5 billion people and we have 350 (million). He should be number one, but we’re never going to give up that position of number one in the world for our country, for Facebook, for Twitter, anything, and they (the press) still haven’t figured it out. They have not figured it out. But look at all that press. Look at all that press,” Trump said.