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Trade, defence deals lined up as US President Donald Trump set to visit India on February 24


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NEW DELHI: Ahead of the crucial Presidential elections this November, US President Donald Trump will visit India from February 24 to 25.

The United States will be looking at wrapping up a trade deal, which could help reduce its trade deficit with India as well as increase sales of defence equipment including military and naval helicopters to India. Trump will also visit Gujarat.

“President @realDonaldTrump & @FLOTUS will travel to India from February 24-25 to visit Prime Minister @narendramodi! The trip will further strengthen the U.S.-India strategic partnership & highlight the strong & enduring bonds between the American & Indian people,” the White House tweeted on Tuesday. 

Confirming the development, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Trump and First Lady Melania will attend official engagements in New Delhi and Ahmedabad. According to officials, the two leaders may announce a trade deal during the visit.

However, there is no clarity if the Kashmir situation will feature in the dialogue between Modi and Trump. Officials involved in the trade negotiations said India will protect its price caps on medical implants and may not welcome American dairy products derived from mammals that are fed non-veg food.

“We have pointed out to the Americans there are cultural issues and Indians won’t accept milk products from cows that are fed non-vegetarian feed,” officials said.

The animal feed used in the US dairy industry has high protein blood meal from cattle. Sources said India will relent on opening up hitherto protected sectors like wines and whiskey.

The ongoing negotiations are expected to be wrapped up by next week. An American trade team will travel to India ahead of US President Donald Trump’s India visit.

Sources said India is ready to cut duties on more than 40 product categories from the US ranging from apples, almonds, high-end mobiles, smart-watches and electronic gadgets in return for the US allowing Indian manufactures duty-free trade facilities withdrawn last year.

Officials said despite protests from Indian liquor and wine distillers, India was considering allowing US wines and whiskey easier entry into India at lower rates. India’s market for western style liquor is estimated to be worth about Rs 50,000 crore and is projected to grow at over 8%. 

US negotiators: India’s price caps on stents, medical devices discriminatory

India’s dairy sector led by cooperatives like GCMMF and NDDB and RSS arms like Swadeshi Jagran Manch had strongly objected to this sector being opened up.

India will also protect its practice of setting price caps on medical devices, including heart implants, as it has a huge population of poor suffering from such ailments. It will, however, mull lowering duties on such imports, said officials.

US negotiators had earlier termed India’s price caps on heart stents and other medical devices to be discriminatory trade practices.    

On Monday the US State Department authorised the sale of Integrated Air Defence Weapon System along with related equipment and services at an estimated cost of $ 1.86 billion.  However, the process is expected to take time. Sources also said an announcement on the procurement of 30 drones from the US is also expected.

Predator MQ9’s for the three services, with 10 each for Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force is likely to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security just before the visit starts. Officials said talks were also on for a $2.6-million military helicopter deal with US-defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin as well as a possible clearance for the government for purchase of MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the navy.

The itinerary 

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania will attend official engagements in New Delhi and Ahmedabad

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)