While US president Donald Trump's India visit is ongoing, key contentious issues that troubled Indo-US bilateral trade relations in the recent past have been ironed out by respective government officials through marathon interactions, it is learnt.
The Ministry of Commerce and its US counterpart have figured out a way to address the concerns of the US medical device manufacturers without harming the affordability interests of Indian public. India's concerns over opening up domestic market to US dairy industry have also been addressed in a mutually agreeable manner by the administrations, senior government officials hinted.
Addressing a discussion on US-India Economic Partnership organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in India and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) on Tuesday, officials informed that concerns of dairy and medical devices sectors had been solved as early as January 2020. The officials also pointed out that the much hyped "trade deficit" problem highlighted by the US while discussing India-US trade relations has also been looked through a broader canvas. The conventional calculation of bilateral trade excludes the defence purchases, and if it is added, the "deficit" becomes narrower, they pointed out.
As per the current way of calculation, India-US trade is becoming more balanced. In 2016, the deficit (US trade deficit with India) was $24 billion. It came down to $22 billion in 2017 and is $20 billion now," Sanjay Chadha, additional secretary, Ministry of Commerce said. The officials said that with increasing imports of oil and gas, this would reduce further.
Anwarul Hoda, chair professor of ICRIER's Trade Policy and WTO Research Programme said that the bilateral issues that need to be sorted out are wide ranging, although medical devices and access to US dairy products were among the most discussed. While India has problems with the US over high duties on steel and aluminium, and withdrawal of GSP benefits, the US wants lot of changes made to facilitate digital trade and electronic transmission, he pointed out.
Hoda also highlighted that the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) set up with much fanfare in 2007 to get industry feedback on the measures needed to improve bilateral trade and investment relations between the US and India was never taken seriously. One of the proposals of the PSAG was the signing of a US India Technology and Trade Agreement for convergence in technical standards, conformity assessment procedures, data flows, intellectual property rights, dual use technology etc. However, there was no progress on this, he pointed out.
The panellists included Atul Dhawan, Honorary Secretary, Amcham and partner Deloitte, Arpita Mukherjee, professor, ICRIER and Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, Amcham.