India ready to sign limited trade deal with US anytime, says Piyush Goyal

The US has signed a mini trade deal with the European Union, but it is yet to respond to India’s request

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US India relations  | Trade deal | agriculture sector

Most issues preventing a limited trade deal between India and the United States have resolved, said Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday, adding an agreement could be signed anytime the political situation in the US allows it.

Goyal said is up to the US to move ahead, as he addressed the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF). The US has signed a mini deal with the European Union to resolve trade spats, but it is yet to respond to India’s suggestion.

A deal will make the two nations resilient, trusted partners in an interconnected world, he said, stressing that both countries believe in free and fair trade and the US is India’s largest trading partner.

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A step-by-step reduction of import duties on high-value US agricultural products, trade margin policy for medical devices, and a promise to continue talks on reducing price restrictions on American technology goods remains India’s basic proposal for trade talks with the US. This is also conditional upon the US backing off from its tough stance on digital services taxes imposed by India. India still retains its proposal to cut duties on high-value imports, such as almonds, walnut, apples, and wine, which were among 29 items on which the government had hiked duties by up to 50 per cent last year, an official said.

The US has signaled it was open to restoring trade benefits under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme to India, provided it got a ‘counterbalancing proposal’. Reinstatement of GSP benefits has remained a key demand from New Delhi with India’s total benefits from GSP tariff exemptions amounting $260 million in 2018, according to the data from the Office of the USTR. However, this was only a small portion of India’s overall exports to the US in the same period, which stood at $51.4 billion.

The US wants India to reduce import duties on information and communication technology (ICT) products, such as high-end mobile phones and smartwatches. New Delhi considered the proposal, which will make Apple iPhones cheaper in India, but talks are stuck on the rate of reduction.