x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Obama's India visit opens with $10bn deals

The American president starts tour with a plan to create 50,000 jobs in the US with the US contracts signed almost on arrival and more to come.

MUMBAI // Within hours of arriving on a three-day visit to India yesterday, the US President Barack Obama confirmed 20 business deals worth US$10 billion (Dh36.72bn) in exports had been signed between the two countries.

This will create about 50,000 jobs in the US and will involve small, medium and large Indian and US companies.

"Fifty thousand jobs in the US, from high-tech jobs in California to manufacturing jobs in Ohio," said Mr Obama yesterday.

One of the biggest deals was signed by General Electric, which will supply the Indian market with jet engines. Boeing also received an order, to supply 33 737 aircraft to SpiceJet, the budget Indian airline. The deal is worth $2.7bn and will help to create 12,000 jobs at Boeing's plant in Chicago.

Mr Obama added there would be announcements of more agreements in the coming months.

This will probably include another contract for Boeing, which is said to have reached a preliminary agreement to sell C-17 engines worth $4bn, creating 22,000 jobs.

In a speech at a business summit organised by the US-India Business Council, Mr Obama emphasised the export-import relationship between the two countries was in need of an overhaul.

At the moment, 10 per cent of Indian exports reach the US and only 2 per cent of US exports go to India.

"That is less than what we export to the Netherlands," said Mr Obama. "And the population of the Netherlands is smaller than that of Mumbai."

He also said the US would change the export control systems that affected India, thus boosting Indian exports and helping to rebuild the US economy. He said he aimed to double exports in five years to support the creation of more jobs in the US.

A wide range of goods will be made in the US for the Indian market as part of the deals signed, Mr Obama said. They would include satellite equipment, gas and steam turbines and other equipment, as well as goods destined for the agriculture, education and healthcare sectors.

But the biggest deals have been for military, diesel and jet engines.

"India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world," Mr Obama said. "The sheer pace in just two decades is one of the most stunning facts in history. India has lifted tens of millions of people from poverty and created one of the largest middle classes in the world."

Looking to diminish concerns about the loss of US jobs to outsourcing and protectionism, Mr Obama said: "There is still a caricature of India as one of call centres and back offices that have cost American jobs.

"For Americans, it is jobs going overseas. Here in India many still see arrival of American companies and products as a threat to Indian small shopkeepers."

Mr Obama said those were old stereotypes. "Trade is not a one-way street," he said. Mr Obama also confirmed the Harley-Davidson Motor Company's decision to open a motorcycle assembly plant in India.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae