NEW DELHI – United States-based global oil giant Exxon Mobil signed a deal to ship natural gas to India, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday.
The move would increase the energy-hungry nation’s use of cleaner fuel and reduce its dependence on the volatile Middle Eastern region.
On the second day of his trip, Trump said the agreement would also allow India to import more liquefied gas from the US and increase energy ties between the two countries that have carried out $20-billion worth of oil and gas trade in the last four years.
“Yesterday, Exxon Mobil signed a deal to improve the Indian natural has distribution network so that the US exports even more LNG to India… (It) is a big deal,” he said in a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi.
The agreement on cooperation to deliver gas in “virtual pipelines” by road, rail and waterways to remote areas, fuel factories and homes was signed between Exxon, state-run refiner Indian Oil and Chart Industries, a US supply-chain firm for liquefied gas.
Trump said American exports to India have increased 60 percent since he took office while exports of US energy to India grew five times in the same period.
Jill Evanko, Chart president, said in a statement that the collaboration would “accelerate India’s ability to offer a cleaner energy solution within the growing cities and networks.”
“We are excited to offer our cryogenic equipment to support what each party in this collaboration believes will accelerate clean energy progress while doing so with localized equipment manufacturing in India,” Evanko added.
India and the US also signed agreements on mental health and the safety of medical products as Modi and Trump held talks a day after a pompous display of bonhomie at a public event.
The US president said the two sides also agreed to “begin negotiations for a major trade deal” that has been a source of contention between them.
“Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement and I am optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries,” Trump added.
Modi affirmed the need to improve commerce ties.
“Both of us have decided that our teams should give legal shape to these trade talks,” he added.
“We also agreed to open negotiations on a big trade deal.
“At the global level, our relationship is based on the similar democratic values we share.”
Trump said he and his “dear friend” Modi also discussed the importance of a secure high-speed telecom network in India.
The US has banned Chinese telecom company Huawei, citing national security and espionage threats.
The Chinese firm has denied the claims.
“We discussed the need for a secure 5G wireless network and the need for this emerging technology to be a tool for freedom, progress, and prosperity, not to do anything where it could even be conceived as the conduct of suppression and censorship,” he said.
He added that the US was working with Australia and Japan to create “the blue dot network” to ensure countries around the world have access to trustworthy options for high-quality infrastructure development.
Trump said he also clinched a deal for selling military equipment, including attack helicopters worth $3 billion to India in a bid to expand “our defense cooperation.”
The president said the agreement to buy the “finest” military choppers and other hardware in the world “will enhance our joint defense capabilities.”
Trump, First Lady Melania, their daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner were given a red-carpet welcome at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, or the presidential house, by President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Savita.
The US president was given a traditional guard of honor by smartly attired military personnel from the Indian army, navy and air force in the sprawling lawns of the presidential estate.
They also visited Rajghat and left floral tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial in the heart of the Indian capital.
The Trumps arrived in the Indian capital on Monday evening after attending a public rally in the western city of Ahmedabad.
The raucous event in Modi’s home state was attended by an estimated 125,000 people. They also visited the Taj Mahal in Agra.