Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

US commerce secretary Ross visits India in bid to unblock trade impasse

A limited trade deal had been expected last month during Indian PM Narendra Modi's US visit

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross during an earlier visit to India at the Indo-Pacific Trade Mission and Business Forum in May.  He is due to visit again this week in a bid to thrash out a trade deal. Reuters
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross during an earlier visit to India at the Indo-Pacific Trade Mission and Business Forum in May.  He is due to visit again this week in a bid to thrash out a trade deal. Reuters

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will be holding talks with Indian leaders this week and three sources in government and industry in New Delhi said there were renewed expectations of a trade deal on farm goods and pharmaceuticals.

The two countries have been locked in trade disputes for months and were expected to announce a limited deal during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to the United States last month.

But no deal was sealed and an Indian government source said negotiators were trying to tie loose ends related to some farm products and generic drugs.

"The aim is to reach an abridged version of a deal that is reciprocal in value terms even though volumes may be small," the source said.

India's trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment. The US Embassy in New Delhi referred questions on trade to the United States Trade Representative, but the USTR did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The deal under discussion includes lowering some tariffs on US farm produce while giving Indian pharmaceuticals faster approvals to enter the US market.

India dominates the world’s generic drugs market and the United States is among its top importers.

Ross is expected to meet his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal on Thursday.

Despite close strategic ties, US-India trade relations have been fraught. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about India's high tariff rates, including a 50 per cent tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The US has also taken issue with India's new investment rules on e-commerce that limit how companies like Amazon.com and Walmart-backed Flipkart can do business in a rapidly growing online market, which is set to touch $200 billion by 2027.

On Monday, India blocked a request from the United States at the World Trade Organization for setting up a panel to rule on India's decision to impose additional duties on certain U.S. products, a WTO official said in Geneva.

In June, the United States ended duty-free access for about $5.7 billion worth of Indian exports under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, of which India was the largest beneficiary. New Delhi responded with higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 U.S. products, including almonds, apples and walnuts.

"The United States will not permit its businesses, farmers, and workers to be targeted in this WTO-inconsistent way," according to a statement by the U.S. in Geneva, seen by Reuters. (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Updated: October 1, 2019 06:37 PM

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