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India, US aim for specific Trade Policy Forum outcome by mid 2022

Bilateral trade between both nations expected to surpass $100 billion mark

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India and US | trade policy

Shreya Nandi  |  New Delhi 

Piyush Goyal, US trade representative Katherine Tai
Piyush Goyal, US trade representative Katherine Tai

India and the United States hope to come up with 'specific trade outcomes' by mid-2022 under the Forum being reconvened after a four-year gap.

Both nations will iron out the outstanding bilateral trade concerns through regular engagement under the forum. Under the TPF, working groups on five broad areas including agriculture, non-agriculture goods, services, investment, and intellectual property will be reactivated by March 2022 to address the issues of mutual concerns.

Both nations also discussed their view on potential 'targeted tariff reductions'.

On Tuesday, India and the US held the 12th ministerial-level meeting of the India-United TPF in the national capital. It was co-chaired by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai.

"The Ministers acknowledged the tangible benefits accruing to Indian and US farmers and businesses, by mutually resolving certain outstanding market access issues through increased bilateral engagement. Both sides also agreed to continue working to expand bilateral trade in agricultural and food products through the TPF Working Group on Agricultural Goods and committed to holding technical dialogues on animal health, plant health, and food safety and other technical issues in 2022," a joint statement said on Tuesday.

The relaunch of the forum comes at a time when the US has emerged as India's largest trading partner, surpassing China. Bilateral merchandise trade in the current year is poised to surpass the $100 billion mark, according to the joint statement. The importance of TPF has also gained importance as the US government had earlier this year made it clear that they are not keen on looking at signing a mini trade deal with India for the time being.

The US is also India's biggest export market, and outbound shipments worth $52 billion were sent to that country in 2020-21.

"The Ministers underlined the significance of the TPF in forging robust bilateral trade ties and enhancing the bilateral economic relationship to benefit working people in both countries," according to a joint statement released by the countries.

Both nations are expected to work towards deeper bilateral cooperation on important issues including, digital trade, agriculture,the relationship between trade, labor and the environment, good regulatory practices and standards and conformity assessment.

The ministers also decided to finalise work on market access facilitation for mangoes and pomegranates, pomegranate arils from India, and cherries and alfalfa hay for animal feed from the US. For instance, the US agreed to work to complete India’s request for table grapes access to the US, and India agreed to work to finalize the mutually agreed export certificate to allow the import of US pork products.

India also expressed interest in restoration of its beneficiary status under the American Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The Trump administration had in 2019 removed India from the GSP scheme, a special trade treatment for developing countries due to significant trade barriers in India. India was the biggest beneficiary of GSP in 2018.

"The United States noted that this could be considered, as warranted, in relation to the eligibility criteria determined by the US Congress," the statement said.

The ministers also exchanged information on the relationship between trade and labour emphasizing the importance of trade in creating employment and opportunities for the working population.

"During the TPF meeting, Ambassador Tai outlined key elements of the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centered trade policy, emphasizing the potential for the United States and India, as vibrant, market-oriented democracies, to cooperate more extensively as strategic partners to implement trade policies that benefit the working people of both countries," according to a statement shared by USTR.

Goyal and Tai saw this sector as bearing particular importance in the context of work on resilient supply chains and on the importance of health-related goods and services in US-India trade ties. In this regard, the US acknowledged India’s concerns over delays arising from Covid-19, in US regulatory inspections of Indian pharma facilities.

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First Published: Tue, November 23 2021. 19:28 IST
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