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US presses India on IP shield, market access and trade barriers

Suresh Prabhu brings up the issue of the unsigned totalization agreement; existing law is adversely impacting Indian workers, he said

Press Trust of India & Subhayan Chakraborty  |  Washington/New Delhi 

Suresh Prabhu, Robert Lighthizer
Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sureshpprabhu)

Seeking to achieve a “more balanced” trade relationship, the Trump administration has pressed on key issues such as market access, lifting of trade barriers and intellectual property protection. During the first US-bilateral (TPF) under the Trump administration, which was attended by Trade Representative and Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, strongly differed with the American position on many of the contentious issues. Describing his discussions with Lighthizer as “positive”, Prabhu said “despite differences over minor issues”, there was alignment on “capturing the huge potential” of bilateral trade. Lighthizer said the pressed for strong outcomes across a number of areas, including non-science-based barriers to agricultural trade, continuing and new regulatory and technical barriers to trade that impact sales of high technology and other products. The delegation also pressed in a number of agricultural and industrial sectors, market access in services and protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. also said the Totalisation and Social Security Act of the discriminates against in the US, who end up losing their social security contributions because of a discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes. Totalisation is about allowing temporary in the to repatriate their social security contributions when they leave the country, commerce ministry sources said. wants early conclusion of the issue, aiming to protect the interests of Indian professionals who contribute around $1 billion (Rs 6,670 crore) each year to social security. Under the proposed pact, professionals of both would be exempted from social security taxes when they work for a short period in the other country. On this note, the issue of increase in visa fee and reduction in the number of available H-1B and proposed by lawmakers was discussed. has reportedly termed the move protectionist and said it has had an adverse impact on services trade. During the meeting, Lighthizer also expressed concern about the $29.6-billion trade deficit with He urged to “further liberalise” the economy to facilitate American exports. “Our work under the focused on achieving progress towards a more balanced trade relationship,” Lighthizer said after the conclusion of the meeting. US-trade has grown significantly in the last few years and has the potential to span every sector of the economy, he said. “To increase reciprocal trade, we will continue to seek to identify and address trade barriers related to goods, including manufactured and agriculture, services and intellectual property rights. The objective is to increase trade flows between our two countries and to decrease our bilateral trade deficit,” the top American trade official said. Lighthizer exuded confidence that with continued work, the two countries would be able to accomplish these goals.

The USTR acknowledged that cross many of the areas, “both sides had differing views that could not be resolved immediately”. However, there was emphasis that it was important to conduct discussions on these areas in the and a commitment to redoubling efforts in the future across all areas. There was agreement that it is critical to continue strong engagement over the coming months in order to achieve concrete outcomes before the next TPF, the USTR said. Later addressing a meeting of Business Council, Prabhu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working to drive policy changes across all major sectors to drive growth. growing at seven-eight per cent will double the economy to $5 trillion in the coming years, he said, adding that opportunities for companies are aplenty. In 2016, India’s was estimated $2.3 trillion. Prabhu said Indian diaspora continues to support American growth. Almost 14 Indian-origin entrepreneurs have built billion-dollar companies in the US, Prabhu said. India-bilateral trade has increased by 10 per cent since 2014 reaching $114 billion in 2016. “We are committed to take that up to $500 billion in the medium term.” The minister also told business community that is keen to promote industries of the future including Genomics, which he said has a huge potential of partnership between and the in this area. is currently America’s ninth largest goods trading partner with $67.7 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2016.

First Published: Sat, October 28 2017. 01:28 IST