The Trump administration has no inherent objection to the India-US free trade agreement though there have been no serious discussions with New Delhi over the issue, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said. The US does not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with India and as a result India-US trade relationship is currently governed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ross told reporters at a White House news conference yesterday.
However, he said there have been no serious discussion on this with India. “I don’t believe that there have been any serious discussions with India of late on the topic of a free trade agreement. But there’s no inherent negative attitude on our part on that,” Ross said when asked if he favoured a free trade agreement with India.
Currently, the US has free trade agreements with 20 countries – Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Mexico, Moroccan, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru and Singapore. While there is no such move in this regard right now, the previous US administrations have been open to the idea of a India-US FTA.
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“I think that (FTA) is something that in the future we see as a very important and positive development. There are certainly concerns between the US and India in terms of some of the protective tariffs and trade barriers that we think that India needs to address,” the then Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal had told Senator John McCain during a Congressional hearing in September of 2013.
The US-India bilateral trade relationship is far away from FTA. In the previous Obama administration, the two countries talked about a bilateral investment treaty. In a recent document, the US-India Business Council had encouraged the US and India to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) that promotes the free flow of economic resources – capital, people, and technology.
“This is a critical step to unleash the full potential of industry in both countries. The process of treaty negotiation would provide a platform to resolve deadlocks and challenges on issues such as tantalisation, the high-skilled work visa program, intellectual property protection and product conformity by aggregating the benefits and mitigating costs,” it had said.