India is discussing with an open mind all outstanding trade issues with the US but a decision on whether a trade deal is to be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump when they both meet this weekend is up to the two leaders, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said.

“We are in continuous dialogue for past several months with the US and we are working towards and early resolution of many of those issues. Whether a deal will be announced or not that is up to the Prime Minister (Modi) and the President (Trump) to decide,” Goyal said at a press conference on Monday when asked whether Modi and Trump will announce a trade deal when they meet in Houston on September 22.

Trump has agreed to participate with Modi in a mega rally in Houston, ‘ Howdy Modi ’, for which more than 50,000 Indian- Americans have registered. Modi will be in the US from September 21-27 primarily to attend the annual UN General Assembly. He also has a series of bilateral and multilateral engagements in New York.

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The US is unhappy with the market access given by India for items such as medical equipment, mobile phones and some agricultural and dairy products and wants it to take steps to improve the trade imbalance which is currently in the country’s favour. While India’s purchase of oil and gas from the US has brought down the trade deficit in the last two years, Washington wants more.

For medical equipment, the US wants India to relax price controls, while for mobile phones, motorbikes and farm products it wants import duties to be lowered and non-tariff barriers removed.

The other two areas of interest for the US are e-commerce rules in India and data localisation. The USTR had earlier pointed out in a report that the data localisation requirements in India would serve as significant barriers to digital trade between the two countries and should be removed.

Restoring GSP scheme

India, on its part, wants the USTR to restore the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme for exporters that allowed duty-free access to more than 3,000 items from the country. Washington had also unilaterally imposed higher import duties on steel and aluminium from India last year on grounds on security which New Delhi wants to be withdrawn.

“We have an open mind and with an open mind, we are looking at several sectors,” Goyal said.

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