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Short-term issues shouldn’t be allowed to hurt India-US trade relations: US official

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on May 10, 2019 Published on May 10, 2019

Ian Steff, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the US and Foreign Commerce Service for the US Department of Commerce   -  Debasish Bhaduri/Kolkata

Short-term issues such as those involving e-commerce policy, data localisation, high tariffs and price barriers on medical devices threaten to “slow down” trade relations between India and the US, according to Ian Steff, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the US and Foreign Commerce Service for the US Department of Commerce.

“These challenges are surmountable,” he said here on Friday, adding that relations between the two countries can be taken to the “next level”.

Steff is part of US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s delegation to India, which also includes over 100 American companies.

“Whether it is e-commerce issues or high tariffs, these are issues that threaten to slow down the trade relationship that we intend to build. This is something that we need to take care of. I think we can do so together,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a programme here organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.

Referring to India’s draft e-commerce policy, Steff observed that some of the proposed regulations have not received the type of consultations that are needed with “large investors” — not just US-based ones, but also Indian entrepreneurs.

However, the sector has already seen a “great commercial relationship” between consumers and those willing to sell (online), he added.

US companies have reportedly raised concerns over India’s draft e-commerce policy and issues related with mandatory data localisation requirements.

There are apprehensions that the policy favours domestic players and denies a level-playing field for US firms such as Amazon and Walmart.

To a question on the US’ General System of Preferences (GSP), Steff said there was “a need to really deal with these issues in a substantiated manner” so that it “encourages” industry on both sides and there is a flow of addition investment.

“I am encouraged that there is seriousness to discuss some of these issues that have really prohibited us from taking the relationship (to the next level),” he added.

Published on May 10, 2019
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