The US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans has urged the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to move forward on a mini- or limited trade deal that has been in the works between two countries for nearly a year now.
In a letter, dated August 27, to USTR Robert Lighthizer, the co-chairs of the caucus said that progress on such a deal has the potential to make “significant progress” towards a long-term, comprehensive and enduring relationship between India and the US.
The letter comes over a month after Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said the two countries were close to inking a “quick” trade deal that would get issues pending over the past couple of years “out of the way”.
“We understand the complexity of trade with India and the need to address old and new challenges, including India’s recent tax on digital commerce,” stated US Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner as well as members of US Congress George Holding and Brad Sherman in the letters.
“At the same time, 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. Therefore, we want to highlight the importance of a limited agreement,” they stated, adding that this agreement will reinforce the confidence and trust needed to realise the “true potential” of the India-US relationship.
At the same time, they said that it would be “inappropriate” to include safe harbours contained in the digital trade chapters in other agreements negotiated by the US. This is because the US and India have been engaged in efforts to establish new policies to promote “greater accountability” of social media platforms in the wake of evidence that they have contributed to “disinformation, social strife and criminal activity” in both countries.
Between 2000 and 2017 alone, bilateral trade between India and the US increased by 560 per cent to $126.2 billion from $19.1 billion, they stated in the letter.
“We believe that a limited trade agreement with India that resolves outstanding barriers, and restores the Generalized 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”, they said.
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