INDIA and the US will engage regularly to resolve outstanding trade issues, the Indian government said, after US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross met his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu on Monday (6).
India and the US are locked in disputes over tariffs, price caps India has imposed on imported US medical devices and over rules banning companies from selling products via firms in which they have an equity interest.
“Both sides agreed to engage regularly at various levels to resolve outstanding trade issues by exploring suitable solutions, which are mutually beneficial,” the government said in the statement.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had said earlier on Monday (6) he planned to discuss India’s new e-commerce rules that could have an impact on operations of firms such as Amazon and Walmart with his Indian counterpart.
India also prohibits companies from making deals with sellers to sell exclusively on their platforms, rules which could affect investment plans of foreign firms in India’s fast-growing market set to touch $200 billion by 2027.
“Both sides agreed to deepen economic cooperation and bilateral trade by ensuring greater cooperation amongst stakeholders, including government, businesses and entrepreneurs,” the government said.
In March, US president Donald Trump announced plans to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6bn worth of its exports to the US.
India is the world’s biggest beneficiary of that trade concession, called the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and its withdrawal would be the strongest punitive action against the country since Trump took office in 2017.
Two Indian trade ministry sources had said the government was hoping for a breakthrough in the talks.
One said India wanted the US to review its decision on GSP and also hopes the it will defer its decision to withdraw trade privileges until India’s general elections are over on May 19.
Political and security ties between India and the US have grown but trade has become problematic.
Indian officials said both sides are likely to emphasise strategic ties and try to manage trade differences.
“The messaging is a reassurance that the US thinks of India as a strategic partner and the relationship cannot be coloured by differences on trade,” one of the sources said.
Total US trade with India stood at $87.5bn in 2018, with the deficit at $21.3bn.
India has held off implementation of new tariffs on the US goods after Washington refused to give it an exemption on higher steel duties.