PM Modi, Donald Trump Must Not Let Trade Issues Hinder Ties: Expert

Marshall Bouton, a senior fellow with the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), said he hopes the two leaders have "the imagination" to see beyond the current differences and try and build a different kind of economic relationship.

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PM Modi, Donald Trump Must Not Let Trade Issues Hinder Ties: Expert

PM Modi and Donald Trump must not let their economic differences hinder the larger India-US ties (File)

New York:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump must not let their economic differences hinder the larger India-US ties and limit the growth of the bilateral strategic partnership, a top expert on India has said.

Marshall Bouton, a senior fellow with the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), said he hopes the two leaders have "the imagination" to see beyond the current differences and try and build a different kind of economic relationship.

He was primarily referring to bilateral trade issues and whether Mr Trump's "America First" policy could impact economic ties with India since both Mr Trump and Mr Modi were elected on a pledge to revive the economic growth of their countries.

He, however, said an America First vision does not necessarily excludes India. "But the trade issues are going to be problematic in this relationship depending on how avidly they are pursued by the Trump administration," he said.

Speaking at a recent global business forum in New York, Mr Bouton said "over time those economic differences will tend to limit the capacity of the strategic partnership to grow further."

On India, he said the Modi government should begin the process of creating jobs for the new labour force entrants.

"If he is unable to begin the process of creating the jobs that will absorb those 1.3 million new labour force entrants a month, he has got a problem. He is strong politically but he will have a problem in 2019 and that is why the economic issues are central," Mr Bouton said.

He predicted that if Mr Modi should "unfortunately" choose to pursue a "cultural or religious" line in the run up to the next general election, he will find his majority in the Lok Sabha reduced "because that kind of a political appeal may work in certain parts of the country but it wont work overall in the increasingly large and influential urban middle class."

Mr Bouton, the president emeritus of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, also made a strong case for India's membership to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, saying it would be a "win-win" proposition for India and the members of the bloc.

"Why should India be interested in APEC? Because India has found it very hard to bring itself to enter the global trading system in a meaningful fashion. India lags other economies, even at these levels of growth, in terms of its participation in global trade," he said.

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Mr Bouton said projects like "Make in India" will not eventually succeed unless India has access to the global value chains that now define the global trade.

"APEC is an opportunity for India to learn about those global value chains, to be socialised into them," he said.

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