New Delhi: The much-awaited trade deal between India and the US has been finalised, and could be signed when American President Donald Trump visits India, multiple sources told ThePrint.
A source who did not wish to be identified said Trump is planning to visit India later this month, possibly after the Republic Day celebrations. This will be his first visit to India.
Trump has been quite upbeat about coming to India and had expressed his desire to visit when he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged New Year’s greetings over the telephone, the source said.
Preparations for the visit seem to have already begun in full force, as security drills have been taking place in two of the hotels where heads of states and their teams stay.
The trade pact
The biggest deliverable from Trump’s imminent visit is going to be the signing of the trade deal, which will seek to address some of the immediate irritants in the US-India relationship and will pave the way for a larger Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), another source told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
This view was echoed by Michael Kugelman, deputy director, Asia programme, and senior associate (South Asia) at Washington’s Wilson Center.
“We can expect the main deliverable to be trade, given how long the two sides have laboured to get a deal. It would be a powerful add for a relationship that tends to be characterised, and rightly so, as a partnership that’s strong on defence and weak on trade. And for Trump to be there in Delhi to announce it — those are some very strong and favourable optics indeed,” Kugelman said.
Although discussions on the FTA had been going on for over a year, the final modalities, such as how much market access will be given to which American goods, began only last year when PM Modi visited the US in September.
That was also the first time when Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal met US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Trump’s visit got finalised during the recent trip to India by Alice Wells, the US’ Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. Wells was in India from 15-18 January.
Trump, who is facing an impeachment trial back home, might also visit Modi’s home state Gujarat for a few hours, the first source quoted above said.
The US president might also add Pakistan and Afghanistan to his itinerary, making it a larger visit to South Asia.