Joe Biden may bring back diplomacy in trade negotiations with India

Not just internal matters, Joe Biden has inherited a difficult legacy in matters of bilateral relations and trade. India-US trade relations have hit a rough patch after Donald Trump took over as the President,

January 21, 2021 / 02:52 PM IST
US President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House.  (Image: AP)

US President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House. (Image: AP)

Hours after US President Joe Biden took the oath of office, he moved swiftly to dismantle Donald Trump's legacy. The President began his term by signing a series of executive orders that reverse the course of immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also directed the Department of Education to extend the suspension of federal student loan payments and interest.

Not just on internal matters, Biden has inherited a difficult legacy in matters of bilateral relations and trade. In recent years, after Donald Trump took over US President, India-US trade relations hit a rough patch.

Soon after being elected to office, in March 2017, US President Donald Trump undertook a review of US' trade deficits and looked into violations of trade laws that went against US interests.

Trade with the US in the first half of the financial year 2020-21 dropped 27.5 percent to $33.54 billion.

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India has been negotiating a trade deal with the US since 2018. However, disagreements over tariffs, subsidies, intellectual property, data protection, and access to agricultural and dairy produce are some of the key sticking points that have led to the deal not getting inked till date.

In July last year, India slapped additional customs duties on as many as 28 products, including almonds, walnuts, fresh apples, and pulses.

India is one of the largest importers of almonds from the US, having imported fresh or dried shelled almonds worth $615.12 million in 2018-19. Imports of fresh apples from the US stood at $145.20 million, of phosphoric acid at $155.48 million, and of diagnostic reagents at nearly $145 million in the same year.

The final nail in the coffin of India-US relations came after the US decided to scrap India's benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme. The scheme allowed India preferential and duty-free access to over $6 billion worth of products exported to the US.

The US accused India of denying similar equitable access to US products into Indian markets, like the decision to slash maximum retail prices of life-saving cardiac stents and essential knee implants between 65 percent and 80 percent.

Experts feel, in Biden's tenure, there would be a stronger partnership between India and China on the economic side with respect to China, as companies would want to shift some of their supply chains out of China to de-risk their global supply chain.

As the tone and attitude towards bilateral trade are set to change, the US would also like to diplomatically pursue ways of increasing market access for its goods in Indian markets, experts believe.

India had been trying to negotiate with the US to restore the GSP benefits. The US has also agreed to restore the GSP benefits to India as part of the mini trade deal that the two countries were aiming at. The US has been wanting lower duties for its apples, pecan nuts, walnuts, almonds and soya bean.
Kamalika Ghosh

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