MUMBAI (Reuters) - Top U.S. chief executives said on Saturday they hope President Barack Obama will ease long-standing trade controls with India during his visit here and this would be good for jobs back home.
“There are strong rumors that very archaic export control system that exists between the U.S. and India, we may be able to see a liberalization of that,” Dave Cote, Chairman and CEO of Honeywell, told reporters.
“I am very hopeful that those rumors become true. I think that is good for trade, which means it is good for jobs in both countries,” said Cote, who serves on two White House panels and is part of a big corporate delegation here for Obama’s visit.
India wants Obama to abolish export restrictions on dual-use technology that could be used to build nuclear weapons, imposed after India exploded its latest nuclear device in 1998.
The president arrived earlier in Mumbai at the start of a 10-day Asia tour with a strong plug for U.S. business in India, which the White House says is central to his pledge to double U.S. exports within 5 years.
Obama could announce his plan to ease export controls during an address to U.S. and Indian corporate leaders at a business conference later on Saturday to showcase U.S. goods.
Terry McGraw, head of McGraw-Hill Companies and chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council, said Obama’s visit comes 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.
Obama’s Democrats lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives in midterm congressional elections after a campaign marked by pointed criticism of China and outsourcing hubs for services including India.
Obama got a firsthand briefing about progress on boosting U.S. business with India from Boeing chief Jim McNerney, who met him at the airport in Mumbai and accompanied the president on the helicopter flight into the city.
Boeing has lined up the sale of C-17 military transport planes to India and also hopes to benefit from billions of dollars in contracts to overhaul the country’s mainly Russian-supplied military, a legacy of their cold war ties.
Those orders include a $11 billion deal for 126 fighter jets for which Lockheed Martin Corp, France’s Dassault, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Saab and the Eurofighter Typhoon are also competing.
Reporting by Alister Bull, editing by Andrew Marshall