Obama unveils $4B India trade push

President Obama unveiled $4 billion in new federal initiatives designed to boost trade between the U.S. and India during a summit with top business leaders Monday in New Delhi.

The president said the countries have “got to do better” to take advantage of an economic relationship “defined by so much untapped potential.”

{mosads}“The fortunes of the United States and the fortunes of India are inextricably linked,” Obama said. “We can grow and we can prosper together.”

Obama announced that the Export-Import Bank would dedicate $1 billion in financing to support U.S. exports to India. That’s of particular significance because, although India represents a sixth of the world’s population, just 1 percent of U.S. exports go there — and just 2 percent of U.S. imports come from the country.

The president said an additional $1 billion would be earmarked for lending to small and medium businesses in India located in rural and underserved markets. And the U.S. government also plans to invest $2 billion in helping India build new renewable energy sources.

The White House is also unveiling the Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative, which will help immigrants in the United States finance businesses back in India.

“We’re moving forward,” the president said. “There’s new momentum, new energy, new hope that we can finally begin to realize the full potential of our economic relationship.”

The announcements came a day after Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a breakthrough agreement that should help U.S. companies resume construction of nuclear energy facilities in the country, which has been long stalled over liability concerns. The two countries also pledged to work together to address environmental concerns in the country, with India saying it would support negotiations later this year for a global climate deal in Paris.

But Obama stressed there was still more work to be done, and that, too often, bureaucracy got in the way of U.S. investments.

The White House has expressed specific concerns about India’s complex tax code, as well as intellectual property protections. Indian officials have pushed for an expansion of U.S. immigration, and specifically H-1B high-skilled visas for technology workers who want to come work in the U.S.

Earlier Monday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said she and Secretary of State John Kerry would be spearheading a new diplomatic effort with the Indian government designed to improve commerce between the countries.

And in a meeting with corporate executives, Obama, Modi and Pritzker discussed ways in which companies could improve infrastructure within India.

Obama said the U.S. was ready to work with India to make sure every home had electricity, and that he wanted to support Modi’s goal of expanding solar energy.

The president’s speech capped off a long day for Obama and Modi, which included a trip to see the elaborate Republic Day parade celebrating the establishment of India’s constitution. The leaders saw large floats, acrobats riding motorcycles, and numerous dance routines.

The parade also saw the display of India’s Soviet-era military hardware. White House officials downplayed any awkwardness there, although the U.S. has said it wants to become a greater supplier of weaponry to India.

“India obviously has a longstanding defense relationship with Russia, but our relationship is on the upswing,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Monday. “And so we’re very confident in the increasing defense ties, even though we recognize there’s a longstanding and legacy relationship with Russia.”

Obama, for his part, hailed the parade as “truly spectacular,” while noting the amount of time he and Modi had spent together through the day.

“I figured the prime minister might be tired of me by now, but what’s another speech between friends,” Obama joked.

Tags Barack Obama India John Kerry Penny Pritzker

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