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Why We Aren't China

Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum
December 6, 2010
Business Standard

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President Obama wowed India, and all those who care deeply about US-India relations should cheer. But one element of the president's agenda merits further reflection. His trip showcased business and investment. Yet the high-profile deal-making obscured three essential qualities that bind Indian and American business: Both countries, each in their own way, embrace the power of private enterprise. Both countries, again in distinct ways, have private sectors that have chafed under the hand of government. And, increasingly, both countries share a commitment to entrepreneurship as a source of innovation and growth.

Make no mistake, public-private deal-making is important. And, goodness knows, the US and India need stronger commercial ties.

But, in these respects, the US and India aren't China. And that's important to remember because Americans are hardly the only ones making commercial deals with India these days. Others' deals, including China's, are as big, and sometimes bigger.

The president's programme focused heavily on market access, including big-ticket commercial deals and the theme of job creation for US workers via the Indian market. US-India trade has grown rapidly, more than doubling from 2004 to around $66 billion in goods and services trade in 2008. US business benefits from the president's helping hand: The US is India's second-largest trading partner, trailing only China. By contrast, India is America's 14th-largest trading partner in goods — behind Brazil and down the list with countries as small as Malaysia. This is no coincidence: Business is playing catch-up after decades in which US-India relations lacked economic content. So, US business looks to the president to help address structural impediments that hinder trade.

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