Opinion: For Its Own Sake, India Should Give Trade A Chance

India needs to get its domestic house in order and emerge as a global trading nation, writes Atman Trivedi.

Atman Trivedi (@AtmanMTrivedi) is a managing director at Hills & Company and an adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum. He worked on India policy at the Commerce and State Departments, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The United States and India are gearing up to take another historic step in their emerging security partnership. But when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sojourn in New Delhi to talk with their Indian counterparts, contentious trade and economic baggage will be lurking not far behind.

In the days leading up to the inaugural "2+2 dialogue" on Friday, a meeting typically reserved for U.S. treaty allies, the Trump administration has insisted that trade issues are a strategic priority. But the combination of India's old habits on trade and the president's transactional worldview complicates the already daunting task of arriving at a shared, high-level picture of the U.S.-India commercial relationship.

A month ago, Pompeo delivered" at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that inadvertently illustrates the point. The lofty title of his remarks notwithstanding, he didn't offer a substantive agenda with India. That's not too surprising, as the countries share an unenviable distinction: Both show clear signs of disengaging from regional and global trade in a quixotic quest to defy the laws of economic gravity.

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