Here's why no trade deal should be expected during Donald Trump's India visit

DelhiWritten By: WIONUpdated: Feb 20, 2020, 12:22 PM IST

File photo: US President Donald Trump. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Donald Trump brings with him zero clarity on the biggest issue on the table - the trade deal.

When US President Donald Trump lands in India, it's going to be like one of those great Indian weddings - probably the grandest of them all, one that will culminate in the biggest cricket stadium in the world.

But what cannot be brushed under the red carpet being rolled out to Trump is the fact that the trade deal with India is still not done.

Trump is busy bragging how many millions are going to gather when he lands - seven million. Even by Trump's standards, this is an exaggeration.

It's another matter that the total population of Ahmedabad city is about 5 and a half million, but the President is not known to be bothered with facts very much. 

And this latest one made in India could turn out to be very expensive because Trump brings with him zero clarity on the biggest issue on the table - the trade deal - which has been stuck in limbo for a while now.

India made a valiant attempt in September last year, sending Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to the UNGA in New York at the last moment, just to see if the momentum around the 'Howdy Modi' event could lead to a deal - it didn't.

And now it's time for 'Namaste Trump' already. As he comes calling - the question is - do India and the United States have any chances of hammering out a trade deal?

The US trade representative  - Robert Lighthizer - has already cancelled his India visit, despite some major concessions being proposed - no breakthroughs have been reported so far in the negotiations.

Trump has been complaining about Indian tariffs for the whole of last year, and that stance doesn't seem to have changed - he has effectively ruled out a bilateral trade deal.

At least until his possible re-election in November. "We can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on, we’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India," Trump's comments and the lukewarm efforts at negotiation raise a bigger question.

Is this visit more about optics than actual bilateral business?

Trump seems more excited about the massive roadshow and the event at Sardar Patel Stadium than about bilateral trade, and defence cooperation.

The trade deal might not come through before the elections, but Trump certainly has a lot to gain in the meantime. Gujarati-Americans have considerable clout in the United States of America.

And they will be an important vote bank for Trump in the election in November - members of US delegation have already started arriving in India.

India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla met with the American Congressional delegation. The chairman of the sub-committee on Asia-Pacific Affairs was leading it.

Members of the India Caucus were also present at the meeting. According to the sources in the Indian government, India's counter to Trump's high tariff complaint is Korea and Japan who levy higher tariffs than India.

The sources have also said that no big-ticket announcements should be expected during Trump's visit- now that certainly sets the expectations right for Trump's trip.