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As Trump Visits India, a Trade Deal Remains Elusive
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s visit to India includes a state dinner, tens of thousands of cheering onlookers and even a marching band on camels — but a long-awaited trade deal between the United States and India is notably absent.
For the second time since September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India visited the United States, the two countries have failed to reach even a limited “mini-deal” that would increase trade for focused groups of goods, like dairy products, medical devices and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Negotiators from both countries have been working since 2018 on a deal that would lower Indian barriers to some American products, and restore India’s access to a program that allows goods to enter the United States tariff-free.
But the breakdown in negotiations illustrates the steep challenge in reaching a trade deal between two countries headed by populist leaders who harbor suspicions of multilateral arrangements. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi want to protect jobs in their own countries by fending off foreign competitors — shared attributes that make it even more difficult to strike a comprehensive agreement that would roll back trade barriers more broadly.
“Both sides are attuned to their own political imperatives and not where the other side might have an area of accommodation,” said Nisha Biswal, president of the U.S. India Business Council, who served as assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia during the Obama administration. “It is hard, then, to find where the common ground is where a deal could be struck.”
In appearances alongside Mr. Modi on Tuesday, Mr. Trump touted an agreement by India to purchase more than $3 billion of American military equipment, as well as other purchasing agreements related to commercial airlines and natural gas.
He said the two sides had made “tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement” and that he remained optimistic they could reach a deal.
But urgency toward a deal appears to have faded, with both leaders appearing content for trade barriers to continue. Mr. Trump has said he is focused on a larger agreement that could be reached at the end of this year, if the two sides can find common ground.
That may not be easy. During his visit, the president reiterated his previous complaints about India’s high tariffs on American products, including Harley Davidson motorcycles and other goods.
“We’re being charged large amounts of tariffs, and you can’t do that,” Mr. Trump said. “I just said that’s unfair, and we’re working it out.”
He added that “the money you’re talking about is major, but the United States has to be treated fairly. And India understands that.”
Since trade talks began, both the United States and India have escalated tensions by ratcheting up tariffs and trade barriers, rather than lowering them.
In March 2018, Mr. Trump included India in the list of countries that would be hit by his steel and aluminum tariffs. India responded with retaliatory tariffs on American almonds, apples and other goods. Last May, the Trump administration stripped India of a special status that exempted billions of dollars of its exports into the United States from tariffs.
The two sides were close to reaching a modest agreement in early January that would remove barriers for American farmers and medical device makers and strengthen India’s intellectual property protections, among other issues. But new demands — like a U.S. request for India to buy more walnuts and turkeys — kept popping up, delaying an agreement.
India then surprised the Trump administration in February by pledging to raise import duties on more than 100 items, including medical devices, furniture, electronics, cheese and shelled walnuts — a move that became a major stumbling block to the pact’s conclusion.
Mr. Trump’s trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, responded by reopening previously settled issues. Then he canceled a planned trip to work out everything in person with Mr. Modi’s commerce minister, Piyush Goyal.
An Indian official briefed on the talks said that India would not be bullied into making an agreement with the United States, especially if those concessions might ultimately hurt Indian interests.
For both India and the United States, the trading relationship is an important one. India was the United States’ ninth-largest trading partner in goods in 2018, while the United States edged ahead of China to become India’s largest trading partner last year.
Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the outcome showed the limitations of Mr. Trump’s truculent approach to trade, in which he tries to ratchet up pressure on trading partners to force them into making a bilateral deal.
With smaller countries that count the United States as a major market — South Korea, Japan, Canada and Mexico — Mr. Trump has signed a series of small or revised deals. But with bigger economies, Mr. Trump’s one-on-one approach “has really run into roadblocks,” Mr. Alden said.
With China, it resulted in a limited trade deal, but not one that addressed the biggest economic issues between the countries. Negotiations with the European Union have so far failed to progress. And with India, Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign may have backfired, he said.
Alyssa Ayres, also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said India had gradually been moving toward greater economic openness since experiencing a financial crisis in 1991. But in recent years, the Trump administration’s trade tactics may have pushed India in the opposite direction.
“Given that the Trump administration has brought tariffs back as a policy tool, we are setting the wrong example ourselves for these trade moves,” she said.
But Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society and a former trade negotiator, said the United States was hardly alone in its inability to get India to sign a trade deal.
India has yet to sign a deal with Europe despite years of talks and has fought efforts by the World Trade Organization to update its trade rules, Ms. Cutler said. Progress that the United States and India were making toward a deal “was overshadowed by new tariff and nontariff measures that India was erecting, seriously complicating the talks.”
The Trump administration’s biggest carrot is the restoration of India’s tariff-free status for industries under the Generalized System of Preferences. But that carrot, which waived $200 million a year in tariffs on Indian exports, hardly has the Indian side salivating.
Since Mr. Trump revoked that status, India’s exports of preferential goods like leather handbags, certain metal and plastic products and furniture have increased 5.5 percent, compared with a 1.9 percent increase in overall exports to the United States. That suggests Indian companies are facing little pain from the change in trade status.
“The U.S. needs the trade deal more than India does,” said Mukesh Aghi, the chief executive of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, a business group whose members include PepsiCo, Cisco, Mastercard, Boeing and Disney.
The battle over milk and vegetarian cows has been another example of how the two sides can’t seem to find a middle ground.
India produces more milk than anyone else in the world, yet it’s still not enough to meet demand. But India is worried that cheap imported milk from the United States will wipe out many of its 80 million small farmers, who typically tend just a few cows each.
“If our farmers go out of business, there is no one to feed us,” said Ashwani Mahajan, a leader of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a business group affiliated with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Then there’s the matter of what those cows eat. In the United States, cattle are typically fed ground-up parts of other animals. That does not pass muster with Hindus, most of whom are vegetarian.
Some American farmers are willing to keep cows on a purely vegetarian diet for 90 days before their milk is sent to India, said Tom Vilsack, the chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the U.S. agriculture secretary under President Obama.
However, “the Indian government is not willing to accept that,” Mr. Vilsack said. “I don’t see any path forward.”
Ana Swanson reported from Washington, and Vindu Goel from Mumbai, India.
Live with Liz on how to run a small business Reseller on PoshMark and Ebay
Hello! Welcome to my channel. I am a reseller on the PoshMark App, Ebay & Etsy. I also have a Reseller Analytical Dashboards. The Sales Dashboard is compatible with all platforms and will look at your sales, revenue streams, split outs of the platforms, Average Sale Price, and much more! It also has a sales simulator where you input your goal and it tells you what you have to do to meet your monetary goals. The Inventory Report using the PoshMark Sales and Inventory Reports to look at what sells “well” for you. It looks at sell through, top brands, categories, sub-categories, sizing, markets, and more!
Join me to chat with Liz Garrison, realizeuposh. She has been a small business owner for over 10 years and now resells. She has a wealth of knowledge!
“Ive lived in Las Vegas for 30+ years, 28 of them married to my hubby….where we created a family of 4 and now are empty nesters with a 26 year old son living in Berlin and an almost 21 year old daughter who is getting married in June to an amazing guy at a BEAUTIFUL destination wedding venue in Montana. My hubby and I opened a Medical Equip company in 1999 when I was pregnant with out daughter….and sold it a few years ago. We survived the economy crash in 208-2010…barely…as most people know….Las Vegas took the biggest hit….and so did our business. I managed the office, did all the bookkeeping, medical billing and kept up with all the compliance regulations required of a Medical Company. Reselling is a welcome reprieve from all the burdens that brought….and an opportunity to start learning again. I went to my first Posh Meetup in 2015 I believe…and PoshFest in 2016….while Posh was still a hobby I never told anyone about…. As Poshers we did all communication via the app on posts veterans created with these LOOOONNNNGGGG threads on listings…. So Ive seen a lot of iterations and still seem to never have it all figured out….Then there is the Fashion component which keeps us all guessing. I went full time in January of 2019 after hiring a VA to share my closet…..and I watched my sales quadruple. It was also something I had enough traction / number for me to be able to justify to my husband the viability of being able to earn and stay home and have time to help keep our home running. After 20 years of running our own show….Im technically unemployable….so Posh is my game….and in December I topped 5000 in sales…. I know we need to keep paying attention as I truly feel 2020 is going to be pivotal for the app….and we are going to see a lot of transition. Who will survive is the question. 🙂 . ”
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Everybody Goes to Burger Heaven
“New York is a lonely, lonely, lonely city,” Yossy Morales said one recent Saturday, a morning so frigid that a bicycle deliveryman outside Burger Heaven on Lexington Avenue at 62nd Street was forced to pour scalding water over his Kryptonite lock to key it open.
For the past decade Ms. Morales, 42 and a native of Honduras, has been on an informal mission to thaw the chill of daily life in a city of eight and a half million. During that time, she has waited tables and served at the counter of Burger Heaven, a family-owned East Side institution, slinging breakfast specials and dispensing human warmth along with a steady stream of endearments to a loyal clientele.
“Everybody has problems, and it’s fun to talk to them about their life,” Ms. Morales said. “It’s not just customer and waitress. It’s friend and friend.”
When a couple walked through the door at 7:45 a.m., Ms. Morales had put in their order before they had shed their overcoats: green salad and two eggs over easy; scrambled egg whites with seven grain bread. “Here’s your decaf, here’s your skim,” she called out.
It was an ordinary exchange on an average February day, and yet it was one tinged with melancholy because, after 77 years in continuous operation, the last of what had once been eight separate Burger Heaven outposts in Manhattan will close on Feb. 28.
The reasons are mostly unsurprising, and yet, unlike at many other small businesses in the city, landlord greed is not one. The family that runs Burger Heaven also owns its building, as it had those in several other now shuttered locations.
Years ago, Evans Cyprus, the chain’s farseeing 94-year-old patriarch and founder, bought a variety of lunch counter outposts, where he installed the vinyl upholstered booths, chrome-edged Formica counters, swivel stools and clustered ranks of condiments that amount to an archetypal diner style.
Mr. Cyprus did his best to adapt with the times, adding healthier options to the Burger Heaven menus, turning a location near Saks Fifth Avenue into a diner cum bar. What he could not have anticipated — who could? — were the cultural shifts that would eventually supplant diners with food trucks or delivery services.
Dietary changes, too, hastened the demise: the contemporary consumer who is far more likely to thumb-tap an order for a Tingly Sweet Potato Kelp Bowl from Sweetgreen than to pull up to a Burger Heaven counter for the caloric depth charge that is a cheeseburger deluxe.
“Young people want grab-and-go,” said Dimitri Dellis, 61, and one of three family members responsible for a business that encompasses four generations. They no longer require a third place, that fixed geographical point in the triangle of daily destinations, after home and one’s job. For a generation raised on smartphones and laptops, the third place is anywhere you plop down.
Thus it has become an alien concept, the lunch counter as a regular social destination, a place where, as Astrid Dadourian, an editor and writer, said one recent morning at Burger Heaven, “you set your day, do some people watching, have some camaraderie, notice the guy who always sits at the counter and wears a hat.”
A scene like that, with its Edward Hopper associations, has come to seem as anachronistic as folding a print newspaper, something you saw once in a diorama or in a YouTube video.
Never mind that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis regularly dined at the counter of Burger Heaven on East 53rd Street with her son, John F. Kennedy Jr., who played soldiers with the ranks of ketchup bottles, saltshakers and sugar canisters. Forget about socialites eating cheek by jowl with secretaries, bank heads alongside barbers.
This is where Barbara Walters consumed her regular rare burger, no bun, with a knife and fork. It is also where Holly Golightly regularly met Mr. O’Shaughnessy, the mobster Sally Tomato’s lawyer and bagman for her payoffs in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
(There is debate over whether the joint in question was Burger Heaven or Hamburger Heaven, a competitor that opened in 1938 across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was later renamed Prime Burger and closed in 2012.)
What is the consequence of losing access to such places in a city where retail establishments are closing all the time and where many can cite lineages of beloved coffee shops long gone?
“New York can be cold, and a place like this makes you feel like you live in a village,” Kari Lichtenstein, a family lawyer, said last week, as she sat with her mother, Emilie Palef, a Toronto native first drawn here by the quirky stores and homey restaurants.
“We were on our way to another spot, and I said to my daughter, ‘I need tomato soup,’” Ms. Palef said, of how they had ended up at Burger Heaven that day.
With it she also got one of the hugs Ms. Morales serves up liberally to her customers, whose faces and orders and, frequently, troubles she seems to know by heart.
“A coffee shop is that place where they know what you like and if you don’t show up, they’re worried,” said Sarah Schulman, a New York-bred novelist raised above Romanoff, a venerable joint near Washington Square, educated in the ways of greasy spoons as a waitress at Leroy’s in TriBeCa and so strong a believer in link between these humble establishments and the engines of urbanism that coffee shops feature in two of her novels.
“When you homogenize a city, you destroy its feeling of urbanity,” Ms. Schulman said, referring to the banks and drugstores and chains retailers steadily wallpapering over the city’s indispensable quiddities. “When we lose businesses that are not chains, we lose specificity and difference.”
And heterogeneity is all but on the menu at Burger Heaven, where both the customers and the staff mirror the city’s diversity of race, ethnicity and class. “We have people working here who are from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Panama, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ecuador, Bolivia and Poland, but they’re all Americans,” said the diner’s longtime manager, Sammy Hamido, who is of Egyptian origin.
More than the famous tuna salad sandwiches, made with pricey high-grade canned fish and none of the extenders a lot of places use to improve the bottom line, or the A-grade beef ground fresh on site or the Idaho potatoes peeled and cut fresh daily for Burger Heaven’s classic French fries, it is the democracy of the lunch counter that will be missed. New York, as E.B. White wrote in his most celebrated essay, does bestow upon its citizens the “gift of loneliness,” if you can call it that.
But it also offsets the fearful isolation of big cities with a measure of companionable privacy in public spaces, and a sense when you sit at Burger Heaven’s counter that your existence does not go unremarked.
In exchange for the noise and expense, the smells and the nuisance, the rats and the rest, we exchange this small pleasure: being both anonymous and known.
In all the years I’ve gone there I never learned Ms. Morales’s last name until being told Burger Heaven was closing. Nor did she know mine. To me, she was Yossy with the thousand-watt smile. To her, I was: “Hello, my love, what are you having? The usual?”
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