India, US to integrate economies, sort out trade irritants

India and the United States on Tuesday outlined a roadmap for integrating the two economies across sectors and move towards an ambitious future for trade relations

Nov 23, 2021
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India-US flags (File)

India and the United States on Tuesday outlined a roadmap for integrating the two economies across sectors and move towards an ambitious future for trade relations. The reinvigorated India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) would be the major platform for collaboration and cooperation in trade matters, resolve bilateral trade concerns and explore important, emerging trade policy issues.

The ambition to move towards a more substantive future for bilateral trade and economic relationship and benefit from the inherent complementarities was spelled out at the 12th ministerial-level meeting of the TPF co-chaired by Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in New Delhi, UNI news agency said. 

Though both sides expressed satisfaction over a robust rebound in merchandise trade in 2021 (January-September), with about 50 per cent year-on-year growth, Tai had on Monday flagged India’s unpredictable regulatory norms, high tariffs and market access restrictions as key constraints to bilateral trade.

In that context, India’s economic reform, liberalisation of FDI in the insurance sector, elimination of a retrospective provision in income tax and launch of a single window system for facilitating investment figured prominently in the TFP ministerial as the two sides underlined the importance of establishing a conducive business environment.

Though India-US bilateral goods trade is set to cross the $100 billion mark this year, there has been no breakthrough on India’s push for restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences benefits. The TPF meet saw no firm commitment coming from the US except that it had “noted it for suitable consideration” even though the Biden administration has indicated that the issue of restoring the GSP status to India was on top of its radar.

In 2019, former president Donald Trump terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the GSP trade programme after determining that New Delhi has not assured the US that it will provide “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

On market access, a contentious issue between the India and the US, there was an agreement on market access facilitation for mangoes and pomegranates, pomegranate arils from India, and cherries and alfalfa hay for animal feed from the US.

The two sides would work to resolve market access for grapes from India and pork/ pork products from USA and continue engagement on exploring enhanced market access for products including distillers’ dried grains with solubles from the US and market access for water buffalo meat and wild caught shrimp from India.

Services, a crucial aspect of market access saw a mere reiteration on the importance of services, movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business travellers between both countries. The ministers agreed on the significance of negotiating a Social Security Totalization Agreement in the interest of workers from both sides, and further engagement on pursuing such an agreement welcomed.

With resilient supply chains becoming a prominent theme in recent India-US dialogues, the ministers have agreed on India and US working with like-minded partners in developing secure supply chains in critical sectors of trade and technology.

One such area is cooperation in the health sector, where India expressed interest in partnering with the US and allies in developing a secure pharmaceutical manufacturing base for augmenting global supply chains.

India and the US would focus on participation and collaboration of their private sectors in building stronger linkages in critical sectors, including cyberspace, semiconductors, AI, 5G, 6G, future generation telecommunications technology and on supporting resilient and secure global supply chains.

Other action areas chalked out by the ministers are Intellectual Property protection, enforcement for promotion of innovation, bilateral trade and investment in IP-intensive industries, constructive engagement in various multilateral trade bodies including the WTO, the G20 etc for achieving a shared vision of a transparent, rules-based global trading system among market economies and democracies.(SAM)