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US-India resume trade talks with focus on tariffs, data, e-commerce

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 11, 2019 Published on July 11, 2019

Visiting team from USTR office to meet Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal today

Trade talks between the US and India, which resumed on Thursday after a brief lull, will focus on tariffs, data localisation and e-commerce rules as officials from both sides try to iron out differences in the areas over the two-day meeting, a government official has said.

“The initial talks between visiting officials from the US and their Indian counterparts to break the ice between the two sides started on Thursday. It will gather pace on Friday when the comprehensive dialogue takes place to discuss the pending matters in details,” the official told BusinessLine.

‘Relationship-building’

The team led by Assistant USTR for South & Central Asia, Christopher Wilson, arrived in New Delhi for “relationship-building” with their Indian counterparts just two days after US President Donald Trump tweeted that India’s high tariffs are no longer acceptable to the country.

Talks between the trade teams had come to a standstill for some time when both sides initiated trade measures against each other last month.

Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal is also scheduled to meet the team from the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office on Friday.

“Since India’s election period has now passed, USTR officials are visiting India for relationship-building with Indian government counterparts, including introductory meetings for the new Assistant USTR for India, Christopher Wilson. AUSTR Wilson and the Deputy Assistant USTR Brendan Lynch are in New Delhi on July 11-12,” according to a USTR spokesperson.

The meeting was scheduled after Trump and Prime Minister met in Osaka last month on the sidelines of the G-20 conference and decided to instruct their trade teams to re-start talks.

The US is India’s largest trade partner and imports a large variety of items from the country whichinclude several labour-intensive products.

Areas in focus

While tariffs on a number of products such as smartphones, other IT and telecom items and Harley Davidson motorbikes are one of the focus issues for the US for the talks, the other two are e-commerce rules and data localisation. The USTR has earlier pointed out in a reported that the data localisation requirements in India would serve as significant barriers to digital trade between the two countries and should be removed. The report also said that India’s draft national e-commerce policy, which also advocates putting restrictions on cross-border data flows, is “discriminatory” in nature.

A limited trade pact being worked out by India-US before the general elections, which included all three issues, got derailed after Washington decided to withdraw a scheme offering duty-free entry to over 3,000 products from India early June as soon as the new government was sworn in.

India then imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products with effect from June 16, after delaying them for a year, to punish the US for not acceding to its request for the withdrawal of penal duties on its steel and aluminium levied last year.

Published on July 11, 2019
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