India and the US are working on a set of “deliverables” — including greater market access and smoother trade in agriculture — that can be implemented without much hassle as the two countries sought to further deepen trade ties, sources told FE. At a meeting of senior Indian and American officials here on Thursday, the US side, led by deputy assistant US trade representative for South and Central Asia Tanya Menchi, is also learnt to have sought the removal of a cap on the prices of high-end stents that India has imposed to offer relief to cardiac patients. The US is particularly interested in India removing price cap on bioresorbable stents, said a source. The meeting took place days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump following which both the countries renewed pledge to increase “free and fair trade”, among others. It will shape the agenda for the trade policy forum meeting between the two countries later this year, said the sources.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in February brought stents under price control and cut their prices by up to 85% by capping these at Rs 7,260 for bare metal stents and Rs 29,600 for drug-eluting ones. The move was criticised by the Association of Indian Medical Devices but the NPPA justified it saying “huge unethical mark-ups were charged at each stage in the supply chain of coronary stents resulting in irrational, restrictive and exorbitant prices…, pushing patients to financial misery”. The decision led to companies like US-based Abbott and Dublin-headquartered Medtronic pulling out high-end stents. While India said the move will save patients some Rs 4,450 crore a year, the US had said the decision showed India was not a business-friendly nation.
Apart from the fact that India is a large market for stent makers, including the US companies, the country also imports medical instruments, including stents, worth around $1.4 billion a year from the US.
As for the agriculture sector, while Indian officials sought market access for grapes and favourable procedures for supplies of mango and pomegranate, the US side asked for relaxed procedures for exporting alfalfa (used widely as animal feed) and cherry to India.
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India has asked the US to recognise the oversight of commodities by its National Plant Protection Organisation in irradiation process for exports of mangoes and pomegranates, instead of stationing American inspectors here for this purpose, raising the costs of Indian suppliers. The US officials have asked India to recognise their approach in the case of alfalfa, giving an assurance that the products to be supplied to India will be free of pests.
Indo-US trade has inched up in recent years. India exported goods worth $42.33 billion to the US in the last fiscal, up 5% from the previous year. The country’s merchandise imports from the US stood at $22.34 billion in FY17, up 2.6% from FY16.