U.S. President Donald Trump warned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi his country must do more to reduce obstacles to U.S. exports even as he offered thanks for recent purchases of American-made equipment. Trump said at a joint public appearance with Modi after the leaders met at the White House Monday that their two countries must have “a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal” and “it is important that barriers be removed” to U.S. exports to India. The meeting brought together two nationalist leaders who have made efforts to boost their domestic manufacturing industry signature issues. Trump’s “America First” slogan echoes Modi’s own “Make in India” campaign.
Modi said his economic plan and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” stance “will add new dimensions to our cooperation” and it is “very clear” each nation’s interests are bolstered by the other’s prosperity. Neither leader answered questions from reporters. Exports to the U.S. provide India its largest surplus with a trading partner — more than $24 billion in 2016 — for a country that ran a $105 billion trade deficit that year. The U.S. president nonetheless offered ebullient thanks for Indian interest in U.S.-made civilian aircraft and military armaments.
“Thank you very much,” Trump said as he opened the meeting with Modi and an accompanying delegation. It “always makes us feel very good, and there’s nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment, nobody even close.”
Modi came to Washington with an armaments shopping list that includes Predator drones, fighter jets and U.S. help with India’s plans for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Trump didn’t specify what arms sales would proceed. The Indian prime minister also came seeking to persuade Trump to continue the H-1B visa program that provides a crucial pathway for information-technology companies to send skilled workers from India to the U.S.
In April, Trump signed an executive order that proposes to replace the current lottery system for issuing H-1B work visas with a merit-based approach. The U.S. also is reviewing the visa program for foreign workers to curb its misuse. Neither leader addressed the visa program in their statement. Modi met Trump after meetings Sunday with business leaders including Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos.
India has pushed forward on its defense purchases, including unarmed Predator drones for which it had negotiated during the Obama administration. The U.S. on Friday cleared the sale of 22 Predator Guardian drones to India, Press Trust of India reported. Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin Corp. signed a letter of intent to collaborate with Tata Advanced Systems Limited to produce F-16 Block 70 combat jets in India, according to a joint statement. Indian low-budget air carrier SpiceJet Limited agreed on June 19 to buy 40 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes in an order valued at $4.7 billion at current list prices.