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India and US may hold trade policy forum later this week

The Trade Policy Forum has not been held since 2017 after a series of trade tiffs with the previous Trump administration had thrown a spanner in the works.

October 27, 2021 / 02:54 PM IST
Representational Image.

Representational Image.

The India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) may finally convene this week to tackle a long list of trade bottlenecks, including tariffs, after disputes that flared under the administration of Donald Trump stalled the dialogue that last took place in 2017.

US trade officials had earlier been expected to travel to New Delhi for the talks, but the two governments have now settled on a virtual meeting, people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

The precise dates are yet to be announced for the virtual meeting between officials of the two countries' commerce departments.

Established in 2005 and reconstituted in 2014, the TPF was an annual dialogue that helped smooth out differences in trade and economic policy and identify areas for trade and investment expansion.

It has not convened since 2017 because of a lack of interest on the part of the Trump administration, which had escalated attacks against India at the World Trade Organisation.

Close

TPF has five focus groups overseeing agriculture, investment, intellectual property rights, services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.

At the meeting, the people said, the US side may push India to rectify a long list of measures that it perceives as barriers to trade.

The US Investment Climate Report 2021 claimed that India had introduced “new protectionist measures, including increased tariffs, procurement rules that limit competitive choices, sanitary and phytosanitary measures not based on science, and Indian-specific standards not aligned with international standards” since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Market access

It had claimed that such measures had effectively closed off foreign producers from global supply chains and restricted the expansion of bilateral trade.

The claims flew in the face of efforts by India to attract global manufacturers based in China to its shores so the country emerges as a hub of multiple supply chains in the post-COVID era.

The US has also kept up the pressure over its demand for fewer restrictions on market access to US medical device manufacturers and makers of solar panels and other products, an official said.

"Issues such as the reinstatement of trade benefits to Indian exporters under America’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme can be addressed quickly through the TPF,” the senior official said.

GSP provided Indian exporters in select sectors an advantage by giving them tariff-free access to the US market as part of the benefits offered by Washington to developing nations.

All benefits to India under GSP stopped with effect from June 5.

Back and forth

After an increasingly fraught relationship with the United States Trade Representative’s office over the past four years, the Piyush Goyal-led commerce department decided to request the USTR to revive the TPF dialogue soon after the last US election, the people cited in the first instance said.

Both governments had repeatedly clashed as former USTR Robert Lighthizer sharpened criticism against India on a long list of disputes, including India's import duties on American goods, export subsidies, and assistance given by New Delhi to exporters and market access to US goods.

Subsequently, both had prioritized meetings aimed at creating a mini trade deal between the countries.

The mini trade deal was set to lower duties on the import of certain information and communication technology products such as high-end mobile phones and smartwatches from the US. It would have made Apple Inc.’s iPhones, for instance, cheaper in India.​
Subhayan Chakraborty has been regularly reporting on international trade, diplomacy and foreign policy, for the past 6 years. He has also extensively covered evolving industry and government issues. He was earlier with Business Standard newspaper.
first published: Oct 27, 2021 02:54 pm

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