MUMBAI, India — President Obama kicked off a three-day visit to India yesterday, asking the world’s second-largest nation and emerging economy to lower trade barriers and, in turn, offering more access to technology and cooperation to fight terrorism.
Obama has asked Americans to reconsider outdated stereotypes of India as a land of call centers and outsourced jobs. He wants India — a developing nation of 1.2 billion people — perceived as a huge potential market that can help the American economy rebuild over the long term after a deeply damaging recession.
“There are many Americans whose only experience with trade and globalization has been a shuttered factory or a job that was shipped overseas,” Obama told a U.S.-India Business Council summit that drew hundreds of representatives from both countries.
“Here in India, I know that many still see the arrival of American companies and products as a threat to small shopkeepers and to India’s ancient and proud culture,” he said.
“But these old stereotypes, these old concerns, ignore today’s reality … it is a dynamic two-way relationship that is creating jobs, growth and higher living standards in both our countries.”
The White House used Obama’s visit to announce yesterday a $9.5 billion private-sector export deal with India that will support an estimated 54,000 American jobs.
The exports deal involves Boeing aircraft, General Electric engines, and a Harley-Davidson assembly plant.
The White House announced a cooperative arrangement between Duke Medicine of Durham, N.C., and a hospital in India; and the sale of the 100th helicopter to India by Bell Helicopter of Hurst, Texas.
A much-anticipated $4.1 billion Boeing deal for the Indian Air Force to buy 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft has reached a “preliminary” agreement, officials said, but still is being finalized.
Obama is expected today to attend a celebration marking India’s Diwali festival and to conduct hold a town-hall event with university students in Mumbai. The president then will fly to New Delhi, the capital, for more events before heading to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan — all part of a four-nation tour of Asian democracies.
Despite India’s poverty, Obama called the pace of national growth and rise of a middle class over the past two decades as “one of the most stunning achievements in human history.”
The president told his audience in Mumbai that expanded commercial ties will “strongly benefit” both countries. He said the total value of U.S. trade with India is less than trade with the Netherlands.