Left it to USTR to take final call on timing of initial trade deal: Piyush Goyal

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September 1, 2020 9:55 PM

India and the US are negotiating a limited trade deal with a view to ironing out differences on trade issues to boost economic ties.

India is seeking exemption from high duties imposed by the US

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said India is ready to sign an initial trade agreement with the US and he has left it to his American counterpart to take the final call on its timing. He also said India is in continuous dialogue with the US on the agreement. Goyal said he and US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer have sorted out most of the issues around this initial trade pact.

“I just had a conversation with Ambassador Lighthizer and we both agreed that we can look at doing it before the (US) elections also but otherwise soon after the elections… “…the entire package is near ready and can be finalised at any time that the local political situation in the US permits them to. I am open to signing up tomorrow what we have agreed upon and I have left it to Bob to take a final call,” he said.

The minister made the remarks during a conversation with Ajay Banga, US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) board member and CEO, Mastercard. The minister said ideally the agreement could have been signed during the India visit of US President Donald Trump in late February, but “few dots and commas” still needed to be finalised and soon thereafter “we were all faced with COVID-19 pandemic.” He added that trade negotiations are complex deals and neither side can be careless about what it is agreeing to.

“Personally, I believe that this will be a foundational trade deal which will only help us deepen our engagement going forward…We on India’s part believe that it has to be a win-win for both the countries,” Goyal said.  The architecture of the initial deal is in the best interest of businesses of both the countries, he said.

The deal would open doors for a dialogue on a larger bilateral engagement “where we have much more elbow room since it’s not on the MFN (most favoured nation) basis”, he said.  “I do hope that we can quickly move to the next phase of a larger engagement for a free trade agreement,” the minister said.

India and the US are negotiating a limited trade deal with a view to ironing out differences on trade issues to boost economic ties. India is seeking exemption from high duties imposed by the US on some steel and aluminium products, resumption of export benefits to certain domestic products under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and greater market access for its products from sectors such as agriculture, automobile, automobile components and engineering.

On the other hand, the US wants greater market access for its farm and manufacturing products, dairy items and medical devices, apart from cut in import duties on some information and communication technology products.

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