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India will engage with new USTR for fresh trade package: Goyal

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 17, 2021 Published on February 17, 2021

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal   -  PTI

Keen to expand digital cooperation, but policy space needs to be protected.

India will engage with the new US government to put together a fresh bilateral trade deal separate from what had been negotiated so far with the previous Trump regime, said Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

“We will engage with the new US Trade Representative to try and put together a fresh package...I think the old package is off the table. We will all look afresh at different ideas and see how our engagement in the future can course correct some of the problems we have seen in the past and prepare both countries to meet the needs of our people,” Goyal said at an online interaction organised by the US India Business Council (USIBC) on the future of the India-US partnership on Wednesday.

Once US President Joe Biden’s nominee for the post of USTR Katherine Tai is officially appointed the floor may be set for intense trade talks.

Responding to a query on whether nothing from the previous negotiations for a mini-free trade agreement, which happened over several months, be taken forward, the Minister said that some issues that were resolved could be brought to the table but the nit-picking over certain issues that were actually not big needed to be avoided.

“We need to sort out issues that are much more relevant for our engagement and leave out the small issues on which a lot of political band-width was being spent,” the Minister said.

The previous US government was stressing on market access for a number of farm items sensitive to India, removal of caps for health sector products and seeking changes in some labelling requirements that were important for India’s sensitivities.

“US and India complement each other. The US offers technology, finance & innovation whereas India has a large market that needs to be served. At the same time, we need to protect people in agriculture and protect them from low quality products,” he said.

On cooperation in the digital economy, the Minister said that India was keen to expand on the digital space with the US. However, we would be conscious of our responsibility to the people of India for data privacy. “There are a lot of concerns with the big tech companies, and India would like to protect its policy space,” he said.

Goyal said that trade between India and the US has grown exponentially, but still there was a lot to be desired. He pointed out that a modest target of half a trillion dollars was set for the two countries, which he hoped can be achieved through continuous engagement between the two nations.

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Published on February 17, 2021
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