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Visa, customs cooperation, greater market access for goods and intellectual property rights are the key issues that will be discussed during the trade policy forum (TPF) meeting between India and the US on October 20. As part of the TPF, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Trade Representative Michael Froman will meet on October 20. Before the ministerial level meeting, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia and Deputy US Trade Representative Robert Holleyman will deliberate upon the issues on October 19. "IPR issues like evergreening of patents, compulsory licensing; ways to promote trade and investments between the countries; trade secrets, market access for agri products will figure in both the meetings," an official said. After the ministerial level meeting, a joint statement will be issued. The meetings assumes significance as the TPF is the premier bilateral forum for discussion and resolution of 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. India has consistently maintained its stand that its IPR laws are compliant with global and WTO norms, but the US has raised concerns over the patent regime, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. On trade secrets, the US wants a separate law to protect this. Besides, the official said, both the sides would discuss the proposed social security agreement, reduction of non-trade barriers and high visa costs in the US which is impacting Indian IT professionals working there. In its meeting in July last year, India had pressed for setting up a high level group to discuss India's concerns on US Totalisation and Social Security Act. According to India, this law discriminates Indian worker's in the US who ended up losing their social security contributions due to discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes. India wants early conclusion of the totalisation agreement or Social Security Agreement with the US.
It aims to protect interests of professionals of Indian-origin who contribute more than USD 1 billion each year to the US social security. Under this pact, professionals of both the countries would be exempted from social security taxes when they go to work for a short period in the other country. The current bilateral trade between the countries is around USD 100 billion. Both the sides have agreed to take it to USD 500 billion in the coming years. India received USD 17.95 billion in FDI from the US companies between April 2000 and March 2016.
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