Indo-US trade: Piyush Goyal to meet his US counterpart Wilbur Ross next week to revive bilateral talks

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Published: July 11, 2020 7:01 AM

The India-US CEOs Forum is also expected to hold a meet on July 14 to further bolster their engagement, said the source.

The US has been impressing on India to reduce its “high” tariffs on a range of products, including high-end mobiles phones and bikes. The US has been impressing on India to reduce its “high” tariffs on a range of products, including high-end mobiles phones and bikes. (Representative image)

India and the US will likely hold a meeting on July 14 to deepen bilateral trade, with commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross scheduled to join in for talks through a video conference, a source told FE.

While an announcement of a limited trade deal, which has been in the works for a few months now, is unlikely at this stage as both the countries are still busy fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting comes at a crucial time when India is firming up a comprehensive strategy to target “non-essential” and sub-standard imports, particularly from China.

Before the pandemic, India had planned to wrap up the “limited” deal with the US first and then explore the feasibility of a broader free trade agreement (FTA) after the American presidential elections in November, sources had said earlier. But the pandemic seems to have delayed the plan.

The India-US CEOs Forum is also expected to hold a meet on July 14 to further bolster their engagement, said the source.

While there has been no official word on the meeting yet, Goyal recently said he could meet his American counterpart in the middle of July.

The meeting also comes close on the heels of the US launching a probe against India and nine others, including the EU and the UK, for imposing or considering a 2% digital services tax (equalisation levey) with potential to hurt American companies.

India is also finalising a draft e-commerce policy, an area of immense interest to the US. Softening its stance on mandatory local data storage proposed in an earlier draft policy, the new draft policy has suggested a comprehensive, periodic audit of the storage locations of players like Amazon, Flipkart and those that store Indian users’ data abroad, said the source. However, these players will have to build in adequate safeguards at the specified storage locations as well to ensure privacy of the user isn’t compromised. The US had earlier raised concerns over mandatory local storage, among others.

The US recently moved to suspend the issuance of new non-immigrant visas, especially for skilled professionals until December 31.

The US has been impressing on India to reduce its “high” tariffs on a range of products, including high-end mobiles phones and bikes. It’s seeking greater and easier access to the Indian markets in agricutlure, dairy, medical equipment, among others.

For its part, India is pitching for an exemption from the extra duty imposed by the US on steel and aluminium, resumption of duty-free export benefits for some Indian goods under the so-called Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) as well as greater market access for its products in sectors ranging from agriculture, automobile and auto components to engineering.

India’s exports to the US, its largest market, touched $52.4 billion in 2018-19, while imports were to the tune of $35.5 billion. Its trade surplus with the US has been shrinking in recent years, as it has stated importing oil and gas from the largest economy, something that India has been highlighting in bilateral talks.

According to the US government data, New Delhi’s trade surplus with Washington eased to $21.3 billion in 2018 from $22.9 billion in 2017. In contrast, China’s trade surplus with the US widened further to a record $419.2 billion last year from $375.6 billion in 2017, despite the tariff war between the top two economies.

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