Trump in New Delhi: What Goods and Services is India Buying from the US?

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Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

With US President Donald Trump set to arrive in New Delhi today for a two-day visit, and a much-vaunted US-India trade deal under discussion, India represents a distant, relatively unknown yet accessible market for American businesses to tap into – especially as US-China relations have entered a volatile period. Trump will be looking for more market access to India’s massive middle-income consumer base, which at about 400 million from a total population of about 1.3 billion (similar to, and shortly to exceed that of China) is good news for American exporters. 

Our firm, Dezan Shira & Associates provides foreign investment intelligence, legal, and tax support to global MNC’s in India, and has a sizable portfolio of US businesses as clients. We have been operational as a foreign-owned consulting practice in India since 2007 – 12 years ago – and have offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. 

While the situation concerning products and services traded will most likely loosen up in coming weeks and months, in this article we take a look at what India is buying from US exporters at this present time. 

In 2018, India imported US$58.7 billion worth of goods and services from the US, making it America’s ninth largest export market. Of that amount, US$33.5 billion were goods and US$25.2 billion in services. That trend is on a rapid upwards tick – it has grown by 30.6 percent year-on-year since 2017. 

Top US exports to India 

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2018 were: precious metal and stone (diamonds) (US$7.9 billion), mineral fuels (US$6.7 billion), aircraft (US$2.9 billion), machinery (US$2.2 billion), and organic chemicals (US$1.6 billion).

US agricultural exports to India 

US total exports of agricultural products to India totaled US$1.5 billion in 2018. Leading domestic export categories include: tree nuts (US$663 million), cotton (US$333 million), fresh fruit (US$163 million), dairy products (US$48 million), and prepared food (US$33 million). It is in this category that we can expect to see significant growth – given much of Trump’s voter base is in this sector. He will have pressured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for increased Indian market access.    

US services exports to India

US exports of services to India were an estimated US$25.2 billion in 2018, 6.6 percent (US$1.6 billion) more than 2017, and 151 percent greater than 2008 levels. Leading services exports from the US to India were in the travel, intellectual property (computer software, audio and visual related products), and transport sectors. This sector, and especially in IT can also be expected to have been prioritized by Trump. 

US investments into India 

US foreign direct investment (FDI) in India was US$46.0 billion in 2018, a 3.4 percent increase from 2017. US direct investment in India is led by professional, scientific, and technical services, manufacturing, and finance and insurance. With a market size similar to that of China, we can expect to see growth in this figure. 

US service sales in India  

Sales of services in India by majority US-owned affiliates were US$27.0 billion in 2016 (latest data). This, too, can be expected to grow as more American auto and related products come into the Indian market.  

The Indian consumer market 

Again, this is on an upward trend. India’s consumer market grew by 12 percent in 2017 and it is expected to become the world’s third largest consumer market by 2025. US companies looking at expanding their export business should be looking at the Indian consumer market and its dynamics now. Good reports on this can be obtained from Santander Trade here, Deloitte here, and ourselves here.

Evaluating India 

As mentioned, our firm assists American and other foreign investors into India and have built up a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We also have a Business Intelligence Research division that can assist answer bespoke questions. They can be contacted at india@dezshira.com.

Other, complimentary publications we have recently published include the following:  

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About Us

India Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in Delhi and Mumbai. Readers may write to india@dezshira.com for business support in India.

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