Obama in India: Outsourcing, Politics, and U.S. Jobs

Amid the goodies President Obama sought to provide to his Indian hosts – such as his endorsement of a permanent Indian seat on the United Nations Security Council – the President was at pains to represent his trip as a trade mission that will benefit U.S. industries – and ultimately provide jobs in the United States. As the New York Times reported, the President “announced that, as part of the trip, American and Indian companies signed or about to sign 20 deals worth about $10 billion that will help create more than 50,000 jobs at home…” (See In India, Obama Courts Corporate America, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Vikas Bajaj, New York Times, 06.Nov.2010.)

The Times article points out just how difficult the President’s balancing act was on his trip to India, and will continue to be, long after his return:

“India is a politically delicate place for Mr. Obama to talk about jobs, given American concerns about outsourcing. As a candidate, Mr. Obama often lamented the tax incentives and lack of educational opportunities in the United States that, as he liked to say, forced children from Boston to compete for jobs with children from Bangalore. Here in Mumbai, he steered clear of the Boston-Bangalore analogy, as he made the case that investment overseas can create jobs at home. ‘There still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘That’s a real perception. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality: in 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India. It is a dynamic, two-way relationship that is creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries.'”

That may be so, but the President is likely to have a harder time selling that notion to the more skeptical – even hostile – Congress that will take office in January. Stay tuned.

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