US President Donald Trump said he was skeptical a trade deal would be inked with India when he visits the country later this month, suggesting that any new pact would only come after the 2020 election – if he wins, that is.

“We can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India.”

The president added that he happens “to like Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi a lot,” but said the United States was “not treated very well by India,” presumably referring to tariffs the country maintains on a number of American goods.

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Art of the deal? US reportedly pressures India to buy $6bn more American farm produce in exchange for some tariff cuts

Though the ongoing trade negotiations have run into snags in recent weeks – with New Delhi resisting demands that it boost purchases of US agricultural goods, for example – India has made a number of moves to sweeten the pot for a deal.

Indian trade officials have signaled that they are open to dropping duties on certain US farm goods, and last week suggested a significant tariff cut for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, now taxed at 50 percent. An earlier proposal would see India buy $2.6 billion in helicopters from US arms producer Lockheed Martin, while the State Department has approved another $1.9 billion contract for US-made missiles, radars and training gear.

With Trump’s latest comments and negotiations on the rocks, however, those concessions may still be insufficient to obtain a deal of any size by next week – let alone a “very big” one – when the president is slated to meet with his Indian counterpart during a state visit.

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FILE PHOTO: A truck ferries a shipping container at a port in the southern Indian city of Chennai.
Big ‘if’: Trump says he ‘looks forward’ to India trip while hinting at new trade deal, despite rocky negotiations

Trade tensions between Washington and New Delhi reached new heights last year after the US pulled India from its “Generalized System of Preferences” (GSP), a mechanism that grants tariff exemptions to certain favored allies. While the decision was meant to encourage India to drop levies on US goods, it backfired, resulting in a number of retaliatory tariffs on dozens of American products.

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