Washington: Negotiations for “new and better” trade deals between the United States and India that meet the needs of both countries are at the beginning stages, senior officials of the Trump administration said here.
India and the US held their maiden “2+2” dialogue in New Delhi last week, during which a long-negotiated defence pact under which critical and encrypted defence technologies will be provided to the Indian military by the US was signed.
Principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said while it was primarily a strategic dialogue, trade-related issues were also discussed.
“A number of administration officials just recently came back from India. They expressed their willingness to negotiate new and better trade deals, and those conversations are at the beginning stages,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily press conference. The conversation between the two countries was how can they grow their trade relationship in a fair and reciprocal manner, Ms Wells told reporters during a separate conference call.
Tariffs and non-tariff barriers, she said, have been the subject of long-standing concern. “But we’re working with the Government of India to address these market access challenge issues.
“We have a variety of ongoing high-level discussions that are taking up these issues. Specifically, what I heard out of the 2+2 is a commitment by our leadership to the importance of resolving this and coming out as a fair agreement that meets the needs of both the US and India, the private sector as well as the people,” Ms Wells said.
Responding to a question, she said that “there wasn’t a specific conversation” on aluminum and steel during the 2+2 dialogue. There is acknowledgement that the US is India’s best trading partner. The US is certainly India’s top market for exports. Bilateral trade expanded by $12 billion in 2017 and now totals $126 billion, and two-way investment expanded almost $57 billion, Ms Wells said.
“Tariffs and non-tariff barriers have been the subject of long-standing concern. But we’re working with the Government of India to address these market access challenge issues. “We have a variety of ongoing high-level discussions that are taking up these issues.”
Former Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, now a top executive of the Tata Group, met Congressman Pete Sessions here to discuss ways to strengthen America’s relationship with India. “Specifically, we discussed how our two countries can partner together to advance our commercial and strategic partnership, strengthen the bonds that unite our two countries, and create economic opportunity for American workers in the United States,” Mr Sessions said.
“Currently, India is our ninth largest trading partner but it is my hope that our bilateral trade continues to grow,” he added.