India will address trade issues after elections: Wilbur Ross

INDIA’S rules on localisation of data and price caps on medical devices imported from the US are barriers to trade but New Delhi is committed to addressing them after the country’s elections, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday (7).

Speaking at a business conference in New Delhi, Ross said there were still overly restrictive market barriers in India. The US is India’s second-biggest trade partner after China.

“We applaud India’s commitment to addressing some of these barriers once the government is re-formed, probably starting in the month of June,” Ross said in a speech.

India’s 39-day general election ends on May 19, and votes will be counted four days later.

Ross met his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu on yesterday (6), after which New Delhi said that the two countries would engage regularly to resolve outstanding trade issues.

India and the US are locked in disputes over tariffs, price caps India has imposed on imported US medical devices, and rules banning companies from selling products via firms in which they have an equity interest.

Ross said India’s recent push to force foreign companies to store more of their user data locally was a hindrance to trade.

“Our role is to eliminate barriers to US companies operating here, including, data localisation restrictions that actually weaken data security and increase the cost of doing business,” he said.

Last year, global payments companies including Mastercard, Visa, and American Express unsuccessfully lobbied India to relax central bank rules requiring all payment data on domestic transactions to be stored locally.

Ross said India’s 2017 decision to cap prices of medical devices made in the US was also an issue.

US president Donald Trump announced in March that he would end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the US.

“As President Trump has said, trade relationships should be based and must be based on fairness and reciprocity. But currently, US businesses face significant market access barriers in India,” Ross said.

“These include both tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as multiple practices and regulations that disadvantage foreign companies.”

US goods and services trade with India totalled an estimated $142.1bn in 2018, with the US running a deficit of $24.2bn.