The US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans has urged US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to prioritise the advancement of the mini-trade deal between the United States and India. The Co-Chairs of the Caucus, US Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner and US Congress members Brad Sherman and George Holding said that a mini-trade deal will reinforce the confidence and trust needed to realise the true potential of the India-US relationship.
In a letter to Lighthizer on August 27, the Co-Chairs acknowledged the complexities involved in a comprehensive trade agreement between the two countries and said that the limited trade deal, under negotiation between India and US, has the potential to make significant progress towards a long term comprehensive, and enduring relationship with India.
"Between 2000 to 2017 alone, bilateral trade increased by 560 percent, from $19.1 billion to $126.2 billion. We believe that a limited trade agreement with India that resolves outstanding barriers, and restores the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Indian exports and removes India's retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products will enable us to develop the necessary foundation to advance a stronger trade relationship", the letter said.
The letter also pointed out the need to address old and new challenges, including India's recent tax on digital commerce, though it was not in favour of including safe harbour clauses contained in the digital trade chapters in other agreements negotiated by USTR in the India-US trade deal. The argument in support of this stand was the ongoing efforts in both US and India to establish new policies to promote greater accountability of social media platforms, in the wake of evidence that these platforms have contributed to disinformation, social strife and criminal activity in both countries.
"We believe that resolving issues in the context of a mini deal, as you are currently attempting, can demonstrate confidence in our ability to resolve these challenges and expand the economic partnership between our countries," the letter said. India's Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has said that the mini-deal is just a few phone calls away as most of the negotiations are over. The letter to USTR is an attempt to get the US side to also act with the same urgency.