India, US set to deepen ties after WTO patch-up

Two sides likely to announce key policies today.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | Amitabh Sinha & Anubhuti Vishnoinew Delhi | Published: November 25, 2014 1:32 am

In signs that India and the US are becoming more amenable to each other’s concerns on the trade and economic front after a recent understanding that ended an impasse on World Trade Organization talks, the two sides will announce a few key policy priorities aimed at deepening their engagement on Tuesday.

While New Delhi has been urged by the US to bolster intellectual property rights (IPR) in the pharmaceutical sector and steps to avoid unfair commercial use of R&D data made available by US companies to Indian regulators, India is keen to ensure support for its “Make in India” campaign. India has already commenced a review of its IPR policy.

Ahead of the ministerial-level meeting of the US-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) on Tuesday, officials of commerce ministry led by secretary Rajeev Kher and those of the US led by deputy US trade representative Robert Holleyman on Monday held a round of talks on trade issues. The TPF, which is meeting for the first time since 2010, is the top bilateral forum for discussion on trade and investment issues.

India, sources said, raised issues such as the totalisation agreement (on social security of professionals), market access in the US for India’s agricultural products such as mangoes and grapes, and protection of its traditional knowledge. Further progress on these issues is expected in the meeting on Tuesday where the Indian side will be led by commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the US team by US trade representative Michael Froman.

Speaking at Ficci on Monday, Froman described unlocking progress at the WTO as “a big deal”, adding that the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) will be effective in reducing the cost of doing business for developed countries by 10 per cent and that for developing countries by 14 per cent, adding billions of dollars to the world economy. “I just got a message from my deputy in Geneva who indicated that India and the US are working as we speak, literally, today in Geneva to build support among the other WTO members for the package of agreements that we agreed to,” he said.

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