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Trump ambiguous on trade pact with India now, saving big deal for later

U.S. President Donald Trump was ambiguous about whether a trade deal with India was imminent and larger trade deal was in the works for later, potentially after the U.S. elections in November. Mr. Trump’s comments come days after U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer cancelled a trip to India to finalise a mini trade deal which the two countries were hoping to finalise when Mr. Trump visits India on February 24 and 25.

“We can have a trade deal with India but I am saving the big deal for later on. 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 elections but we’ll have a very big deal with India,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday afternoon at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, before he flew to California.

“We’re not treated very well by India but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And 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.” Mr. Trump said, repeating the part about Mr. Modi having told him that seven million people would greet him between the airport and the stadium. Mr. Trump then proceeded to ask several reporters if they were going to India as well.

The U.S. President is due to attend an event, ‘Namaste Trump’, at Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on Monday with around 1,25,000 people attending. Given that the entire population of Ahmedabad was 5.7 million in 2011 as per the census that year, there had been speculation on social media that there was some confusion around the lakhs to millions conversion when Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump spoke recently about the President’s visit. The White House did not respond to a clarification sought by The Hindu last week on the numbers cited by Mr. Trump who had said last week that five to seven million people would line the route from the airport to the stadium.

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

“It may be due to several reasons, including the unexpected economic slowdown in India’s economic growth, impact of US-China trade war, GSP withdrawal from the US side and retaliatory tariffs on specific U.S. goods from the Indian side,” USISPF said.

According to the report, the data available for the first three quarters of 2019 (January-September) pulled the overall growth rate in cumulative bilateral trade down to 4.5 percent from 8.4 percent registered for the first two quarters.

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