Amid speculation that India and the US may sign a trade package for reciprocal market access during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Houston visit, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said the two countries are aiming for an “early resolution” to “many” issues. However, he did not confirm whether a definite deal would be announced during the visit on Sunday.
“We are in continuous dialogue for the last several months with the United States and we are working towards an early resolution of many of those issues. Whether that deal will be announced, that is up to the honourable Prime Minister and the (US) President to decide,” Goyal told reporters during a briefing Monday.
The minister said the two countries were yet to “firm up” specifics of their discussions, which may be finalised when the Prime Minister and US President Donald Trump meet during an event organised by the Indian American community in Texas.
The two are expected to jointly address the event, also known as ‘Howdy Modi’. “But we have an open mind. We are looking at several sectors,” said Goyal.
This comes after months of discussions between the two countries to quell trade tensions that have been building up over the last two years. Talks between the two leaders in June had culminated in them instructing their trade teams to resume discussions and work towards addressing trade concerns. The package follows from a decision in July for India and the US to work towards “mutually beneficial” outcomes aimed at addressing mutual trade concerns and growing economic relations between the two countries.
The US last year hiked tariffs on its steel and aluminium imports, a move that hit Indian exports and prompted it to approach the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) dispute settlement body.
Meanwhile, the US raised issues with India’s moves to slash the maximum retail prices of essential medical devices and demands that dairy product exporters certify their produce was derived from animals not fed food containing internal organs.
Trump has long been critical of Indian tariffs on products like Harley Davidson motorcycles, at one point even calling the country a “tariff king”. His administration claimed India’s decisions, including its tariffs on information and communication technology products, were preventing “equitable and reasonable” access to its markets.
In June, the US withdrew duty-free benefits accorded to India under the country’s Generalised System of Preferences Programme (GSP), disrupting earlier discussions for a potential trade package. With exports worth over $ 6.3 billion under GSP in 2018-19, India was the largest beneficiary of the scheme. India retaliated a few weeks later by increasing the tariffs on 28 products imported from the US, including high value products like almonds and fresh apples—a move that the US has disputed at World Trade Organization (WTO).
The US is one of India’s largest trading partners, exporting $33.1 billion worth of goods to India in 2018. However, India still had a goods trade surplus of $21.3 billion with the country.