The US is appreciative of the series of reforms unleashed by the NDA government but feels that it is not happening at the pace it wants, according to Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
“Reform is happening but it is happening much slower than they would want it to happen,” she said after concluding the 9th round of US-India Trade Policy Forum meeting which she co-chaired along with US Trade Representative Mike Froman.
Later in the evening she interacted with the American business community at a reception hosted in her honour by the US-India Business Council (USIBC).
“They (Americans) wanted it (reforms) to be much speedier, quicker,” she said. At the same time, they concede that in India it is better to be steady and slow, she noted.
During the meeting, both sides welcomed the substantive progress in promoting bilateral trade and investment since the last TPF meeting in November 2014; and discussed future plans for continuing engagement at the technical and official level for deepening economic and commercial cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
The discussions focused on four broad work streams including Agriculture, Trade in Goods and Services, Investment in Manufacturing and Intellectual Property.
Sitharaman said the US now has a better understanding of India and its policies because the Indian government has actively engaged the American government and its private sector in various spheres related to their areas of concerns.
“We invited their active participation even as we were forming the policy. We invited them to ask any number of questions whether to patents or copyrights. We have not left even one question unanswered. So the readiness to talk, the readiness to answer question has actually helped to remove any apprehensions that they would have had in their minds,” the minister said.
“In today’s India, I am not frustrated at all. In fact if there is a movement, it is happening now. If there is a change, it is happening now,” she said.
On her second visit to the US in about a month, she said there is a growing and increasing engagement with the United States, particularly on commercial and trade matters.
“We have seen progress,” she said. “The Trade Policy Forum and developments in India together make the entire commercial engagement far more substantive and meaningful.”
During the Trade Policy Forum meeting, India and the US agreed to explore the possibility of enhanced market access on identified agricultural products.
“Both countries noted each other’s requests and agreed to follow up on exploring the possibility of enhanced market access on identified agricultural products,” said a joint statement issued after the meeting. Both sides highlighted the importance of ensuring food safety, and took note of technical discussions under the TPF that is expected to facilitate trade in food products.
They recognised the need to establish science- and risk-based regulations and procedures that are based on international standards and guidelines set by CODEX Alimentarius, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).
The two countries also agreed to facilitate cooperation between their SPS Enquiry points and to share best practices on implementing risk-based approaches to food inspections.
Noting the progress in facilitating agricultural trade with India’s change to allow stickering of maximum retail price at the port, the joint statement said that discussion of mandatory package size requirements for pre-packaged foods will continue in 2016.
India clarified that determination of wholesale and retail labeling requirements is not dependent on the weight of imported food consignments.
India took note of US concerns regarding the import of boric acid into India and highlighted its existing process. Both sides agreed to continue discussion on this issue.
Reiterating their commitment to provide affordable healthcare to the poor, the two countries decided to identify ways in which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to quality health and affordable medicines.
Sitharaman and Froman emphasized the role of robust and balanced intellectual property rights protection in fostering creativity, promoting innovation, and attracting investment, taking into account the interests of all stakeholders.
The two leaders reiterated the goal of ensuring the poorest populations in India and the US have access to quality healthcare, and committed to identifying ways in which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to quality health and affordable medicines, said the statement.
Praising the increased engagement between technical and senior officials on intellectual property (IP), the two sides reviewed the results of the dialogues on copyrights, trade secrets, patents, traditional knowledge and the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), standard essential patents, genetic resources, and IP policies that took place in 2015.
The two leaders pledged to explore further mechanisms, including technical discussions, to reduce trade costs across the health sector supply chain, including in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, in a manner that benefits patients and providers of healthcare services and products.
Noting the holistic approach to health and the advantages of traditional medicine in certain cases, both sides recognised the gains from the enhanced cooperation since the last TPF and agreed to explore further the potential of mutual collaboration in the field of Traditional Medicine (AYUSH).
Both countries will work together to consider signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of AYUSH and the Department of Health and Human Services, which can pave the way for a Joint Working Group on collaboration in various aspects of Traditional Medicine, including regulatory and capacity building, a media release said.