Thursday, February 25, 2021
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Indo-US trade deal unlikely in next 4 years: Former White House economic adviser

Mumbai: Despite India being an important partner for the US geopolitically, a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) is unlikely in the next four years regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential elections, a former White House economic adviser said on Thursday.

Both US President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden look at India amenably but have their own compulsions not to proceed with such a far-reaching deal, said Todd Buchholz, who served as the director of economic policy at the White House under president George H W Bush.

Earlier this month, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had said that India has given a “very good and balanced offer” to the US for such a pact.

“I find it difficult to imagine that in four years’ time, there could be a FTA between the US and India,” Buchholz said at an interaction organised by Axis Bank here.

He said while Trump travelled to India in February and shares a great relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he would be wary of going ahead with the deal as it could irk the American farmers and also because of the wage differentials.

His opponent Biden will be under pressure from the left-leaning supporters in the Democrat camp who will demand a lot from India, including higher wages, better working conditions and shorter hours of work which any emerging nation cannot afford, Buchholz argued.

Biden, who has a lead in opinion polls over Trump, is a multilateralist at heart and also part of the “Washington Consensus”, but the pressure groups may prevent such a pact, he said.

Regarding the election outcomes, Buchholz, who has served under a Republican president, said he does not believe the opinion polls and Trump can swing the verdict to his favour late as well, given that the Presidential debates are yet to be held.

He also warned that if Biden wins the popular vote but loses due to the electoral college, there can be violent agitations on the streets by the Democrat supporters.

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