Financial Express | 19 November 2021
USTR visit: India, US to focus on market access, revival of key trade meet
By: Banikinkar Pattanayak
India and the US will likely discuss ways to bolster trade through greater market access — especially in agriculture and information communication technology — and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers when US trade representative (USTR) Katherine Tai visits India next week, a source told FE.
Tai’s two-day visit starting November 22, her first as the chief trade negotiator of the US, will also set the stage for the revival of the annual bilateral trade policy forum (TPF) meeting, which last took place in Washington DC in 2017, said the source. Tai will meet commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, among others.
The visit comes days before the next ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), in which both sides are expected to maintain starkly different positions on issues ranging from fisheries subsidies to agriculture. But they will likely join hands on New Delhi’s proposal for a patent waiver to help fight the pandemic better, a subject that may also be discussed during Tai’s visit.
During the talks on market access issues, the US will likely push for a reduction in Indian tariff on goods ranging from farm commodities to ICT products. The talks may also cover non-tariff barriers, mutual recognition agreements and quality standards of imported products. The US is India’s largest export market, having made up for outbound shipment of nearly $52 billion in FY21. Imports from the US stood at $29 billion last fiscal, as the pandemic hit supply chains.
The India-US TPF, established in 2005, is a forum to resolve trade and investment issues between the two countries. It has five focus groups: agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity (intellectual property rights), services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.
The US has already hinted it no longer wants a “limited” trade deal with India that was negotiated for months under the Trump administration and was to cover products with annual bilateral trade of about $13 billion. This mini deal was to be followed by negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA). However, with Joe Biden at the helm, the US hasn’t so far displayed interest in either the mini deal or an FTA.
Last month, the USTR had said Tai and deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi would travel to Tokyo, Seoul and New Delhi “to meet with government officials and stakeholders to discuss the enduring US commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and to strengthen trade and economic relationships with key allies and partners”.
In recent months, both sides have been seeking to address trade concerns, identify specific areas for increased engagement and develop an “ambitious, shared vision for the future of the trade relationship”.