- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2021

India’s prime minister on Friday urged President Biden to push forward a long-awaited trade deal between the countries.

In his first meeting with Mr. Biden at the White House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the two nations’ strong ties and called on the president to strengthen that collaboration through a trade pact.

“Trade between our two countries is actually complementary,” he said in remarks ahead of the meeting.

“There are things that you have and there are things that we have, and then we, in fact, complement each other. I find that the area of trade during this decade, that is also going to be tremendously important.”

Mr. Biden said he wanted to “launch a new chapter in the history of India-U.S. ties.”

“Of course, our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are,” the president said. “It’s about our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including 4 million Indian Americans, who make the United States stronger every single day.”

Mr. Modi is in Washington where the U.S. is hosting the first-ever in-person summit of the so-called Quad countries — the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia — to counter China’s military aggression.

The U.S. is India’s second-biggest trade partner, but the two countries have struggled to seal a pact. Instead, they operate under a broad framework.

In 2019, America exported $53 billion worth of goods to America and imported $35 billion worth of goods to India, which accounts for only about 2% of the overall U.S. exports, according to India’s Ministry of Commerce.

That was good enough to make the U.S. the top exporter to India at the time, but it has since fallen behind China, which has bolstered its trade with India.

India and the U.S. had been discussing a trade deal since 2018, but former President Trump upended negotiations by declaring the country “the tariff king” and decrying its high import costs. Since then, both nations have held talks, but no deal was reached.

In 2019, it was widely expected that a deal would be announced when Mr. Modi appeared in Texas with Mr. Trump, but nothing materialized. Those expectations were raised again in February 2020 when Mr. Trump visited India, but again nothing happened.

India had sought to reach a deal during the Trump era by slashing its tariffs. Mr. Trump insisted they were still too high.

Speaking Friday at the White House, Mr. Modi expressed hope that Mr. Biden would usher in a “transformative period.”

“We will look towards how we can work further together, not only for our respective countries, but for the entire world, how we can take positive action, and I am absolutely convinced that under your leadership, whatever we do, it will be extremely relevant for the entire world,” he said.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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