Obama Looks To India To Heat Up U.S. Job Market

President Barack Obama attends the U.S.-India Business Council and Entrepreneurship Summit in Mumbai

hide captionPresident Barack Obama attends the U.S.-India Business Council and Entrepreneurship Summit in Mumbai on Saturday. Obama is looking for trade openings for U.S. businesses that could eventually translate into more jobs in the U.S.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In a speech at a summit of U.S. and Indian executives in Mumbai on Saturday, President Obama stressed that a key part of his visit to India's commercial capital was about American jobs.

"As we look to India today, the United States sees an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world," said Obama, who brought with him a delegation of some 200 American business leaders. "For America, this is a jobs strategy."

Mumbai was the first stop on the president's 10-day trip to Asia. The visit highlighted shared American and Indian concerns about terrorism, but it focused mainly on developing wider trade ties. Obama is looking for trade openings for U.S. businesses that could eventually translate into more jobs in the U.S.

In a background sheet provided to journalists, White House officials said that business deals announced just before the conference would support nearly 54,000 American jobs.

The list included an Indian energy company's order for electricity-generating turbines from General Electric and a preliminary agreement on the sale of Boeing military transport planes to India's armed forces.

But Atindra Sen, the head of the Mumbai business group, the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, said although trade between the two countries has grown, the number of American jobs created by trade between India and the United States is still very small.

"Even with the 200 percent increase in Indian imports from the U.S., it's not going to create that many jobs in the U.S.," he said. "I think that this talk of jobs is more for the domestic audience than it is for a real issue between India and the U.S."

Sen, who taught economics in the United States, says most of the job losses in the U.S. were related to real estate. That's something that can't cross international borders, he says.

But in his speech, Obama drove home the prospect that trade between the two countries has a lot of room to grow. He noted that less than 10 percent of India's imported goods now come from the U.S.

"Our entire trade with your country is still less than our trade with the Netherlands — this is a country with a smaller population than the city of Mumbai," he said. "As a result, India is only our 12th largest trade partner."

The potential for India's growth is enormous. Despite the worldwide recession, India has been posting economic growth rates of well over 8 percent a year. Its stock market hit a record high Friday for the second day in a row.

The question comes down to whether American businesses — and workers — can somehow share in that growth.

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