After the Midterm Elections, an Indian Road Trip

 
By Hans Nichols
     Oct. 28 (Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Just four days after a
probable Democratic setback in the midterm elections, President
Barack Obama will gas up Air Force One for an 8,000-mile trip to
India, the first leg of a four-nation tour. He will reinforce
ties with Muslim Indonesia, enlist South Korea and Japan to the
American side of the currency debate with China, and strengthen
diplomatic and economic ties with India.
     Obama, who has been seen as hostile to business in polls of
executives and investors, has a golden opportunity to promote
U.S. corporate interests in India and show how business-friendly
and job-focused he can be. While in Mumbai—his first stop—the
President will attend a summit of American and Indian chief
executive officers. The American C-suite elite will be there in
force. Attendees include Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric (GE),
Jim McNerney of Boeing (BA), David Cote of Honeywell
International (HON), and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo (PEP). They all
put India high on their list of target markets.
     With Obama in attendance, Indian companies and ministries
will probably ink a half a dozen deals with U.S. outfits, some of
them months in the making. There's a $4.5 billion order for
Boeing C-17 transports, says Ron Somers, president of the
U.S.-India Business Council. He says the Indians may announce a
$4 billion contract for either GE or Caterpillar (CAT) to supply
diesel locomotives.
     While it's not clear that Obama will have to step into any
last-minute negotiating glitches, his presence helps. "When a
Cabinet official—or even better, a President—shows up, everybody
knows that's the time to get the deal done," says William A.
Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council in
Washington.
      The bottom line: President Obama will travel to India after
the midterms. The trip gives him a chance to help U.S. companies
land important contracts.

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