US team in New Delhi to continue talks on sorting out trade concerns

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on September 24, 2018

Key issue New Delhi wants a resolution fast and is not keen on postponing retaliatory action beyond the November 2 deadline   -  Kagenmi

Penal duties on steel, aluminium on top of the agenda

A week after India postponed retaliatory action against the US for imposing penal import duties on steel and aluminium from the country, Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott is in New Delhi with his team to take forward the talks on smoothening the contentious areas in bilateral trade relations.

“The issue of the proposed roll-back of the penal duties imposed on India’s steel and aluminium has been pending for a long time. New Delhi wants a resolution fast as it may not want to postpone retaliatory action beyond the fresh implementation date of November 2. This issue is high on India’s agenda in the meeting with the USTR team,” a government official told BusinessLine.

India is also pushing for the extension of the US’ GSP (generalised system of preferences) scheme for India which allows duty-free access to a large number of Indian products in the American market, but has been now put on hold with Washington carrying out a review.

Market access

“The US team, too, is aggressively pushing for market access for its dairy and medical equipment industry by suggesting that India should change certain regulations to make imports possible. The two sides have been working on the issues for some time and hopefully a resolution would happen in due time,” the official said.

The Donald Trump regime has been pushing India to close the trade gap of about $23 billion which is in India’s favour by increasing market access for American products.

India, which announced retaliatory import duties on 29 items from the US in July, had put offits implementation in the hope of an amicable settlement of the issue with the USTR’s team of officials. The new date of implementation of the duties is November 2.

New Delhi’s proposed retaliation is against the US decision to impose additional import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium from a handful of countries which include India, China, the EU, Mexico, Canada and Russia. New Delhi believes that these duties are unjust as India does not pose a security threat to the US and its exports of steel and aluminium are much lower than quantities exported by many other countries.

“While Commerce Ministry officials engaged with USTR officials are trying to make it clear that it would be difficult to postpone retaliatory action further, the solutions being offered are not mutually satisfactory. India wants a complete roll-back,” the official said.

The negotiations are difficult as it is neither easy nor desirable for India to change its domestic rules to suit the interests of the US dairy and medical equipment industry.

While the US dairy industry wants India to do away with the requirement of a certification stating that the dairy items are not from animal fed on animal parts, the medical equipment industry doesn’t want India to impose price caps on products.

“The idea is to sort out all these issues as part of a package. One has to see how soon that can happen,” the official added.

Published on September 24, 2018

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