India has flagged its concerns in the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting about problems being faced by domestic businesses in getting timely visas for the US and has urged America to fast track the process, an official statement said on January 13.

The issue came up for discussions during the 14th TPF meeting here on January 12. It was co-chaired by the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

The commerce ministry said that the two ministers noted that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business visitors between the countries contributes immensely to enhancing bilateral economic and technological partnership.

"Minister Goyal highlighted challenges being faced by business visitors from India due to visa processing time periods and requested the US to augment processing," the statement said.

The ministers also acknowledged the role of professional services in catalysing bilateral trade between the countries and noted that issues related to recognition of professional qualifications and experience can facilitate services trade.

The two countries have agreed to set up a mechanism to cut down non-tariff barriers with a view to promote bilateral trade, it said.

In the meeting, the Indian side also demanded lifting the ban on exports of wild caught shrimps as the prohibition is affecting Indian fishermen and exports.

"The ministers agreed to establish a Joint Facilitative Mechanism (JFM) to mitigate non-tariff barriers," the commerce ministry said.

Under this, the countries would look at mutually recognising results from International Laboratories and establish mutual recognition arrangements on a bilateral basis whenever possible.

"This would eliminate duplicative testing requirements and reduce compliance costs for trade in high-quality goods," it said.

The statement also said that the two sides discussed how to fast track the engagement for the social security totalization agreement in future.

The agreement is one of the key asks from the Indian side in the TPF which will significantly contribute towards enhancing services trade between countries and help Indian IT professionals who temporarily work in the US.

Further, the ministers agreed to launch future joint initiatives in areas, including critical minerals, customs and trade facilitation, supply chains, and trade in high-tech products.

In this, the two countries would develop an ambitious and forward-looking roadmap for enhanced cooperation in order to achieve economically meaningful outcomes, it said.

India emphasized the need to increase the number of inspections by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in India to reach the pre-pandemic level.

The US is India's top export market for pharma products. In the backdrop of the pandemic, USFDA had stopped conducting inspections and audits in India for a long period, and resumed later, which resulted in a huge backlog impacting product approvals and unit approvals/renewal.