U.S. exports top Obama priority in India - officials

Last Updated : 28 October 2010, 03:28 IST
Last Updated : 28 October 2010, 03:28 IST

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"This really is one of the most important emerging economic relationships for the United States, both multilaterally and bilaterally," White House deputy national security adviser Mike Froman told reporters before Obama's trip early next month.Obama departs three days after a midterm congressional election in which voters are expected to punish his Democrats for high U.S. unemployment which has raised tensions over the outsourcing of American jobs to lower-wage nations like India.

"A key part of the message is going to be that we want to make sure there's opportunities for U.S. jobs, U.S. exports, and that's a big part of his mission there," said Froman in response to several questions about outsourcing.The White House said it expected several commercial deals between U.S. and Indian companies to be finalized during the visit, and that it was making progress in ironing out existing obstacles to greater trade between the two nations.Deliberately spending more time in India than in any other foreign country since the start of his presidency, Obama will dedicate three days of his 10-day trip to cementing ties with New Delhi before departing for Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

The United States and India also want to deepen their security and counter-terrorism relationships, and Obama's first stop on the trip will be to visit a memorial to the 2008 attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. The White House said he will also stay at the hotel.

But the White House stressed the economic aspects of the visit which will dominate Obama's first day on the ground and culminate in him speaking to a summit of U.S. and Indian business leaders in Mumbai."It's a great market for U.S. exports. It's a good ... source of investment for the United States. There are a lot of jobs in the United States tied to both of those things," said Froman.

India, a massive market of 1.2 billion people, is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. But trade between the United States and India totaled a paltry $33 billion in the first eight months of the year and is basically balanced in terms of sales between the two countries.

This relationship is dwarfed by the $296 billion in U.S.-China trade, which skews heavily toward Chinese exports, adding to a U.S. trade deficit that Obama hopes to address during the G20 meeting in Seoul after he departs India.

Over 200 U.S. companies will attend the Mumbai summit on Nov. 6, and top chief executives will also meet with Obama to discuss boosting exports to India. Civilian nuclear power is an important potential market in India after a landmark cooperation agreement with Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, in 2008.

U.S. firms like GE and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba Corp , have projects worth $10 billion in the pipeline.

Companies had been put off by a liability law passed by the Indian parliament in August. But on Wednesday, the Indian government signed an international treaty in Vienna governing global civil nuclear liability in a move the U.S. welcomed.

"We consider the signing earlier today of the Convention on Supplemental Compensation to be a positive step," said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

"I think we're making progress. What we're interested in is simply to ensure that there's a level playing field for our companies," he said.

Published 28 October 2010, 03:21 IST

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