Policy

USTR says higher market access, predictable regulations, digital trade high on agenda with India

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: Nov 22, 2021
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Katherine Tai wants India-US to collaborate on ‘worker-centric policies’ to further trade relations

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has said that discussing market access restrictions, high tariffs, unpredictable regulatory requirements and restricted digital trade measures faced by American businesses in India was on top of her agenda during her two-day official visit to the country.

Tai, who interacted with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Indian government officials and business representatives on Monday, also brought labour issues to the table and said that she was looking to discuss how further collaboration on “worker centric policies” can benefit Indo-US trade relationship.

It is not clear how India would react to the suggestion of discussing labour as part of trade policy as it has traditionally treated labour issues as a domestic matter, the wider aspects of which could be discussed at the International Labour Organisation.

“There is huge potential of growth between our two economies in areas such as digital economy, services, health related trade and even agriculture. I hope the revived Trade Policy Forum (TPF) will keep pace with other important aspects of India US partnership,” she said. The TPF, scheduled on Tuesday, to be attended by both Goyal and Tai, will take place after a gap of four years.

Issues

Tai said that despite the scope, bilateral trade never seemed to quite live up to its significant potential. “At USTR, we hear frequently from our stakeholders, on issues such as market access restrictions, high tariffs, unpredictable regulatory requirements and restricted digital trade measures. These are the issues where we intend to make progress and they will be on top of my list while I am here,” she said.

The US is amongst India’s top trading partners with exports to the country in 2020-21 valued at $51.62 billion and imports at $28.88 billion resulting in a trade deficit of about $23 billion for the US.

Goyal, in his speech, drew attention to the differing levels of development of both nations. “We have been uniquely tasked by our leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden, to strengthen our economic ties and trade based on rules of transparency and fair trade. Of course, I am sure while doing that you will bear in mind the hugely differing levels of prosperity amongst different nations and also work with the shared vision for prosperity of all sections of society and of the people of both our countries,” he said.

The USTR also put in focus the need to ensure workers issues while focussing on trade growth. “President Biden and I are convinced that US trade policy requires a fundamental shift to ensure that our policies and actions focus on the impact that trade and trade agreements have on real working people. Part of that means engaging in new ways with all of you and my Indian government colleagues to connect trade more directly to working people,” she said.

India and the US also share challenges in areas like climate change and sustainability, vulnerable supply chains and promoting market-oriented structures and these are areas that are ripe for closer cooperation now, she said.

Goyal pointed out that India and the US had realised the necessity of diversifying critical supply chains. “We are both poised to play an increasingly important role when it comes to resilient supply chains, working with other like-minded countries and ensuring a better world to live,” he said.

Pending issues such as penal tariffs on Indian steel, market access for medical equipment and dairy from the US, India’s digital tax and non-tariff barriers in both countries are some of the matters likely to be discussed at the TPF, according to officials.

Published on November 22, 2021

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