Obama Calls for Closer Business Ties in India

The president says increasing commerce between India and the United States is a “win win” for both.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talk with Prime Minister Singh of India at the White House in Washington DC, November 24, 2009
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talk with Prime Minister Singh of India at the White House in Washington DC, November 24, 2009 (White House/Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama told business leaders in Mumbai, India today that increased commerce between their country and the United States is a “win win” scenario for both. “The United States sees Asia, especially India, as a market of the future,” the president added. “We don’t simply welcome your rise as a nation and people, we ardently support it, we want to invest in it.”

Those were welcome words because India hasn’t quite embraced Obama yet, in no small part because the country feels that it hasn’t been treated the way a rising superpower deserves to be.

Although India has probably the most to lose from America withdrawing from Afghanistan, it has hardly been consulted, let alone asked to play a major role in the counterinsurgency strategy that is currently being implemented there. The administration appeared rather to ally with arch rival Pakistan. Combined with the need for close ties with Beijing — at a time when Sino-Indian rivalry is heating up — policymakers in New Delhi were left wondering about Washington’s true allegiances.

During the first of his ten days in Asia, the president promised to water down remaining technology sanctions that were imposed upon India in the wake of its first nuclear test in 1998. He warned that the mutual benefits of increased trade “might not be readily apparent” to both Americans and Indians however. “There are many Americans whose only experience with trade and globalization is a shuttered factory or a job that was shipped overseas.” The words echoed the president’s op-ed in The New York Times yesterday where he argued against protectionism.

It can be tempting, in times of economic difficulty, to turn inward, away from trade and commerce with other nations. But in our interconnected world, that is not a path to growth, and that is not a path to jobs.

Instead America should seek to promote and sell its goods and services abroad, wrote Obama — particularly in Asia. “That’s how we’ll create jobs, prosperity and an economy that’s built on a stronger foundation.”

India has emerged in recent years as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is expected to take over Japan as the world’s third largest economy after the United States and China in the decade ahead. American exports to India have quadrupled to about $17 billion over the last seven years and service exports tripled to about $10 billion annually.

The president will stay in India for three days, visit Mumbai and New Delhi and address the nation’s parliament. He travels to Indonesia before attending the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea and a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders in Yokohama, Japan.

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