‘America First’ vs ‘Make in India’ as Modi hosts Trump

In this photo taken on February 22, 2020, a police personnel (R) walks past a billboard displaying pictures of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and US President Donald Trump (R) near the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad, ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to India. (AFP)
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Updated 23 February 2020

‘America First’ vs ‘Make in India’ as Modi hosts Trump

  • Visit will be big on optics with Modi, Trump appearing at a rally and the US president with First Lady watching the sunset at the Taj Mahal
  • US wants to sell more medical devices like stents to India

New Delhi: Trade ties between the United States and India have long been problematic but under “America First” President Donald Trump and “Make in India” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have worsened.
While eclipsed by his trade war with China, Trump’s tussle with India, and New Delhi’s prickly reaction, has made a major pact unlikely during the American president’s visit to the world’s fifth-largest economy from Monday.
“They’ve been hitting us very, very hard for many, many years,” Trump said of India ahead of the 36-hour trip to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi accompanied by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others.
Here, AFP looks at the main issues of contention between the two countries on trade, which hit almost $145 billion in 2018, with the US deficit of $25 billion — much to Trump’s annoyance:

India has long had a penchant for protectionism. Its import tariffs are among the world’s highest. Under Modi, facing slowing growth, accelerating inflation and a widening budget deficit, this hasn’t changed.
Under pressure from farmers and fearing yet more cheap Chinese imports, Modi in November baulked at joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade pact including Asia’s main economies and China.
In recent months, Modi’s government has hiked duties on US imports, including on $600 million worth of Californian almonds as well as apples, steel and chemicals coming into Asia’s third-largest economy.
In its recent budget, the right-wing government raised tariffs on items such as shoes, children’s tricycles and furniture, irking Washington which canceled a visit by trade envoy Robert Lighthizer, reports said.
Plans to force foreign firms to store Indian consumers’ data locally have also irked US businesses, as have e-commerce regulations hitting firms like Amazon and Walmart.
Modi’s “Make in India” drive is aimed at getting foreign companies to manufacture in the South Asian country and so reduce imports — mirroring Trump’s “America First” mantra.
New Delhi’s actions “have made the protectionism concerns in India even greater,” a senior US official said ahead of Trump’s arrival.

However, many of India’s recent moves have been in response to actions by the Trump administration, starting with its 2018 decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from India and other countries.
India is the world’s third-largest steelmaker, and its exports of steel products have tumbled 46 percent according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Exporters of mechanical and electrical machinery and auto parts have also suffered.
Last year, Trump added to the pain by suspending India’s privileges under the decades-old US Generalized System of Preferences program that had allowed it to ship $6 billion in goods duty-free.
The US wants to sell more medical devices like stents to India while US dairy farmers — a key voter base for Trump ahead of his re-election push in November — want greater access for their products.
India says it is worried American cows have been fed bovine extracts — a no-no in a country where most Hindus believe the animals are sacred. Modi relies heavily on support from his farmers too.

United by mistrust of China, Trump’s visit will see deals in defense and other areas, including potentially the supply of six nuclear reactors, the fruit of a landmark atomic accord in 2008.
The visit will be big on optics, with Modi and Trump appearing at a rally at the world’s largest cricket stadium and the US president and First Lady Melania watching the sunset at the Taj Mahal.
But the main “deliverable” that both strongmen want is a big trade deal, and in its absence they might instead strike a smaller agreement, according to press reports.
This could include India lowering duties on large-engine Harley-Davidson motorcycles — long a bugbear of Trump — and farm products like alfalfa hay and pecans, according to Bloomberg News.
“We would not like to rush into a deal, as the issues involved are complicated and there are many decisions which actually could affect or impact the lives of millions of people on the ground,” cautioned an Indian government spokesman.


British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

Updated 03 April 2020

British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

  • The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care
  • She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday

LONDON: A 36-year-old NHS nurse died on Friday after being infected with coronavirus and fighting for her life in intensive care.
British-Pakistani Areema Nasreen had been placed on a ventilator at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands where she worked in the acute medical unit, the BBC reported.
The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care. She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday.
Paying tribute to the nurse, Richard Beeken, chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said Nasreen “was a professional, passionate nurse who started at the trust as a housekeeper in 2003 before working hard to gain her nursing qualification in January 2019.”
“Her dedication to her role and her popularity among her colleagues is obvious to see with the outpouring of grief and concern we are seeing around the organization and on social media. We will do everything that we can in the coming days and weeks to support those that need it,” he added.
Beekan said Nasreen always aimed to make a difference and that she “will be very sadly missed.”
Nasreen’s close friend Rubi Aktar, also a nurse, posted the news of her death on Facebook and described her as “the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet.” She added that her friend “above and beyond for everyone she met.”
“I’m so grateful that I had the honor to call her my best friend, she saw me at my best and my worst and accepted my every flaw. I am so broken that words can’t explain. I can’t believe I will not see your smile again,” Aktar wrote.
“You made me the nurse that I am today, with your support, motivation and inspiration I am the nurse that I am today and I hope I can do you proud Areema. I love you so much and I will never forget you. You had so much to live for, I am sorry you didn’t get to see your kids grow up and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to complete your career,” Aktar added.
Dr. Samara Afzal, a doctor who knew Nasreen, described her as a devoted nurse and “always full of life.”
“I’m lost for words..I beg you all to stay at home and keep everyone safe,” Afzal tweeted.

Meanwhile, England’s chief nurse Ruth May pleaded with Britons on Friday to stay at home over the weekend, invoking the names of Nasreen and another nurse, Aimee O’Rourke, who also died of coronavirus.   

"This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays," May said.

"But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them," she said.

"They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family," May said.

"They were clearly remarkable women, nurses and mothers," she added in a statement.