MUMBAI President Barack Obama hailed India on Saturday as a vital source of U.S. growth and jobs as his administration announced relaxation of U.S. export controls to spur trade between the two countries.
"As we look to India today, the United States sees an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest growing markets in the world. For America this is a jobs strategy," Obama said as he kicked off a 10-day tour of Asia.
Obama's Democrats lost control on the U.S. House of Representatives in congressional elections on Tuesday as voters punished the party for high U.S. unemployment after a campaign marked by criticism of China and outsourcing hubs like India.
Acknowledging that anger, Obama said India was still seen by many Americans as "a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs," but he rejected that view.
"It is a dynamic, two-way relationship that has created jobs and growth and higher living standards in both our countries and that is the truth," he told business leaders.
In an address to a business summit, the president said U.S. companies were finalizing deals worth around $10 billion.
"Today's deals will lead to more than 50,000 jobs in the United States," he said.
Deals include previously announced transactions involving General Electric for aircraft engines and gas turbines, and Boeing for 737 passenger planes. But details on a key $4.5 billion sale by Boeing of C-17 military transport planes were still being ironed out.
White House aide Michael Froman told reporters Obama would ease export controls imposed after India's 1998 nuclear tests, and support Indian membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes.
"This really includes India as a major player in a non- proliferation world... and it recognizes the nature of the strategic relationship we now have with India," Froman said.
The four regimes are the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australian Group, which aims to reduce the spread of chemical and biological weapons, and the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multinational effort to control the transfer of conventional arms and dual-use technology.
Obama will remove almost all of the remaining Indian defense and space organizations from a list of entities maintained by the U.S. government to curb proliferation, and relax so called dual-use rules for Indian firms that regulate technology with both civil and defense applications.
"We will end up treating India similar to other close allies and partners other than as a country of concern," Froman said.
Terry McGraw, head of McGraw-Hill Companies and chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council, said Obama's visit came at a vital time amid rising anti-trade rhetoric spurred by high unemployment at home and elsewhere.
"When you've gone through an economic downturn to the extent that we have, a lot of countries very easily go protectionist and we've seen a lot of protectionism around the world. you can't win in a protectionist kind of view," he said.
(Editing by Andrew Marshall)