On November 5, USISPF and Squire Patton Boggs co-hosted a virtual event featuring Former US House Speaker John Boehner, Congressman Joe Crowley, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, Frank Samolis and Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations, Alyssa Ayres, moderated by Ambassador Frank Wisner. The discussion was focused on the ongoing US Election and its impact on US-India relations over the next four years. The speakers further addressed the current state of US-India trade and foreign policy, and shared their insights for the future.
Speaker John Boehner spoke on the increasingly critical relationship between India and the US, and the likely shift in tone and attitude towards India in a Biden administration. He also noted that, while Joe Biden may be declared President-elect, the Republicans may maintain control over the Senate. Another challenge for the new administration would be the deepening divide between the far left and the more moderate wing of the Democratic party.
Congressman Joe Crowley stressed on the historic significance of the greatest election turnout for an incumbent president in the history of the US and the importance of having a woman as Vice-President, that too of Indian descent. He presumed that this was sure to be matter of great pride for Indian Americans and will undoubtedly help strengthen the relationship between India and the US. On the issue of a divided Democratic Caucus, he recognized the role that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to play to unite the Congress.
Frank Samolis highlighted the emphasis that a Biden administration would place on collective action through participation in the World Trade Organization or through international trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership. He acknowledged the uncertainty around whether the Biden administration will restore its benefits to India under the Generalized System of Preferences and eliminate tariffs on imports from India. However, he seemed hopeful that the election of Kamala Harris as Vice-President would allow for increased visibility of Indian Americans domestically and appeal to India as well.
Alyssa Ayres further mentioned that all administrations since President Bill Clinton’s had built upon an ongoing stable relationship with India. In the past, India had looked to the US to solidify its place in the United Nations Security Council, a matter of interest that may find greater support in a Biden administration. She also added that both Washington and India would seek a greater consensus on trade, especially as President Trump has often assumed a punitive approach to trade between the two countries. Ayres suggested that the Biden administration may choose to cooperate with India in the clean energy and climate space over the coming years.
An important topic of discussion was China. Ambassador Frank Wisner stressed upon the importance of the 2+2 defense agreement between India and the US, but recognized that both countries may be distracted by domestic politics and constrained by resources to collaboratively manage the rising tensions with China in the region. He recommended that India and the US take a “Divide and Deal” approach to avoid trade frictions from contaminating the overall geopolitical relationship between the nations. Congressman Joe Crowley also added that there needs to be an expansion of military ties and joint operations between India and the US against China.