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Mini US deal off the table, will try ‘fresh package’, says Piyush Goyal

“I will also engage with the new USTR (US Trade Representative) to try and put together a fresh package. I think the old one is now off the table,” said Goyal, while addressing the US-India Business Council’s virtual State of US-India Business event on Wednesday.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
February 18, 2021 3:05:30 am
Piyush Goyal

India will work with the US to put together a ‘fresh’ trade package, as the long-awaited mini trade deal that was close to finalisation between the two countries last year may no longer be signed, according to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.

“I will also engage with the new USTR (US Trade Representative) to try and put together a fresh package. I think the old one is now off the table,” said Goyal, while addressing the US-India Business Council’s virtual State of US-India Business event on Wednesday.

According to him, the countries would have to look afresh at different ideas. They will have to see how their engagement in the future can “really course correct” some of their past problems and prepare them to meet the needs of their citizens. In this regard, the minister said discussions should look at issues more relevant to a “larger” engagement.

“I think the last time around, when we were discussing, we were nitpicking with very, very small issues and changing the goalposts in every subsequent conversation,” said Goyal, adding that some of these “small things” were earlier “kind of deal breakers”. “Therefore, a lot of management bandwidth or political bandwidth was going in the very small issues. I think we need to leave those aside and move into the orbit of a much greater engagement, given the fact that we complement each other. We are hardly a competition to each other,” he said.

‘While, of course, some of the issues which we were able to resolve can still be brought on the table…I do think that we have to look beyond that,” he added.

Explained

Shift in approach

According to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, the countries would have to look afresh at different ideas. They will have to see how their engagement in the future can “really course correct” some of their past problems. By saying that “last time around, when we were discussing, we were nitpicking with very, very small issues and changing the goalposts in every subsequent conversation”, he has indicated a clear shift in approach.

The Minister also said there were a lot of concerns about the behaviour of Big Tech companies, including American firms, and India would like to protect its policy space and express its concern regarding these entities not willing to adhere to the law of the land.

“But at the same time, there are lot of concerns about the behaviour of Big Tech companies including American companies and India would like to protect its policy space and India would like to express its concerns about some of these Big Tech giants not willing to adhere to the law of the land and to the social fabric that we value very much in India,” he said.

Goyal said the US has “a lot” to offer in terms of technology, finance and innovation. While India has a large market which it needs to serve, it cannot afford to increase prices to “very exorbitant levels” and the country will have to look at a “fair dealing” in its engagement, according to him.

Citing examples like India’s willingness to engage more with the US on aspects like 5G as well as pharmaceuticals and medical devices, the Commerce Minister said issues related to affordability and attempts by some firms to evergreen patents had to be kept in mind. He added India would like to expand engagement on the digital space, but reiterated his concerns over data privacy and India’s wish to protect its policy space.

“Some American pharma companies are unhappy about our desire not to allow evergreening of pharma products. If they change the molecule a little bit and they call it a new innovation, (and) want a very high price for that — you’re fine to do that in the US where you have a $50,000 per capita income,” he said, adding, “… we have a per capita income under $2,000 and, therefore, our health costs to our people have to be kept affordable.”

Goyal said he hoped American firms recognise this reality “rather than trying to push through small tinkering of technologies which don’t really impact the medical efficacy of treatment or cure”.

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