India-US trade talks skirt vexed issues including tariff on steel

India-US trade talks skirt vexed issues including tariff on steel

India News

India and the US on Thursday pledged to further boost bilateral trade and investments, as key policymakers and industrialists of both the sides huddled for a commercial dialogue and CEO forum meeting here.However, sources told FE that contentious issues —including India’s concern about the extra tariff levied on steel and aluminium supplies and tightening of the US visa regime and the American demand for easier FDI rules for e-commerce and data localisation, and greater market access — didn’t feature in the discussions.Commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu chaired the meetings on Thursday. US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who could not attend the India-US Commercial Dialogue and CEO Forum because of ‘unforeseen flight cancellation due to inclement weather and technical problems’, participated via teleconference.The meetings come at a time when both the sides are engaged in negotiations to clinch a bilateral trade deal that has remained elusive despite several rounds of talks.However, sources said the commercial dialogue or the CEO forum meetings are not the platform for the two sides to rake up such critical issues; instead these are usually discussed in the trade policy forum meeting.Importantly, the two sides have also not held the annual trade policy forum meeting in 2018 (it’s usually convened around October), in a sign that bilateral relations are far from perfect despite improving trade balance that the Trump administration has been seeking from New Delhi.The CEO Forum meeting was co-chaired by Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran and president and CEO of American Tower Corporation, James D Taiclet. Department for promotion of industry and internal trade secretary Ramesh Abhishek and US Ambassador in India Kenneth Juster took part in the meeting. The Forum is a platform to highlight key issues that affect business entities and to identify areas for closer collaboration. It has met thrice since its reconstitution in December 2014.Media report have suggested that India could lose the so-called generalised system of preference (GSP) concession, under which it enjoys zero tariff on $5.6 billion of exports to the US a year, in the strongest punitive action against New Delhi under US President Donald Trump.The immediate trigger for this action is said to be the tightening of India’s FDI guidelines on e-commerce, which are expected to hit Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart. Moreover, a drive to force global card payments companies such as Mastercard and Visa to store their data in India and the levy of higher tariffs on electronic products and smartphones have not gone down well with the US.As part of the trade package, while India wants an exemption from the additional duty on its steel and aluminium, the US is also seeking to use the concessional tariff it offers to India and others under GSP to extract greater market access from New Delhi. Recently, the US dropped as many as 50 Indian goods from the list of items, supplies of which were earlier eligible for concessional tariff under GSP.For India, greater access to the American market in food, farm, engineering goods, auto and auto parts segments hold promise in the long term (over five years). The US sees good prospects for its companies in Indian civil aviation, oil and gas, education service and agriculture segments. It is particularly interested in India removing price cap on bioresorbable stents. India is a large market for stent makers and it imported medical instruments, including stents, worth around $1.6 billion from the US in the last fiscal, up 10% from a year earlier.The imposition of retaliatory tariff worth $235 million on 29 American goods will be delayed, as India still hopes to clinch a mutually-acceptable trade package. However, trade tussle between the two sides has only worsened in recent years.
Courtesy : Financial Express