Washington, Jan 12 (PTI) The Modi government and the Biden administration are “thinking big” in terms of their trade and commerce relationship, a top Indian official said Wednesday as he ruled out the previously talked about mini trade deal or a free trade agreement and noted that restoration of GSP is not a priority for New Delhi.
The previous Trump administration revoked the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from India. The GSP allows eligible developing countries to export duty-free goods to the US.
It is during the previous administration as well that the two countries were on the verge of a mini trade deal, which has now been kicked out of the table. The Biden administration is also not in favour of a free trade agreement which businesses from either side are now talking about.
“I think in terms of GSP, I have not heard any significant clamour from the Indian industry. To focus our energies on the GSP issue, I have raised it today with my counterparts,” Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters at a news conference at the conclusion of the India-US Trade Policy Forum meeting which he co-chaired with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
“It’s an issue, which is probably something that the Congress will have to take a call on. But it’s not something which has been high on our priority lists or something on which we spend a lot of time to discuss, it was discussed, but more in passing,” he said.
“I have placed on record our requests that GSP should be restored. But I can assure you the trade between the two countries continues to expand very rapidly. I do not think that GSP withdrawal has been to the detriment of our growing trade ties,” the minister said in response to a question.
Responding to another question on the mini trade deal, Goyal said “it was too mini” to really merit any great effort on both sides. “We have even forgotten most of those issues. We are looking at much, much bigger ambitions in our trade with the US.”
“While of course, we are doing free trade deals, we’ve concluded and entered into force free trade deals with Australia and the UAE. We are in active dialogue with the UK, Canada with Israel, and the EU. The United States is currently not looking at any free trade deals with any country whatsoever, as a matter of their political policy,” the minister said when asked about the prospects of a free trade deal.
“The FTA is not on the table,” he asserted.
“Rather than that, we are focusing on greater market access. We are focusing on ease of doing business between the two countries, you’re looking at, bilaterally, a much larger footprint between the two countries, for trade, investment and business. And therefore, the small mini trade deals have lost relevance today,” Goyal said.
Meanwhile, India and the United States on Wednesday launched a new TPF Working Group on Resilient Trade. This new Working Group will enable officials to deepen bilateral dialogue on a range of issues that can enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the trade relationship so that it is better able to withstand current and future global challenges, said a joint statement.
During the meeting, Goyal and Tai underlined the significance of the TPF in forging robust bilateral trade ties and enhancing the bilateral economic relationship to benefit working people in both countries. They appreciated that bilateral trade in goods and services continued to rise rapidly and reached about USD160 billion in 2021.
Responding to a question, Goyal disagreed that TPF has not been productive in terms of deliverables.
“I don’t think so. There are market access issues which don’t come into the TPF in terms of the detailing. Both Katherine Tai and I decided that we should leave those details for the officials to work on and continuously expand,” he said.
Goyal said they both agreed to move beyond the one is to one issue like India will open table grapes for them and the US will open up their country for Indian mangoes. “That was the level of discussions and that many trade deals that were once upon a time and massaged or in earlier engagements,” he said.
“Katherine Tai and I decided that this is not the age and day where we will be looking at literally, that I give you one item you give me one item and we square off issues. I think we both agreed that we should look at the big picture. We should look at what’s good for both countries. And at the ministerial level, we set the context in with them, the official should find that day to day solutions,” he said.
“We discussed and decided that let’s move out of this one is to one ratio based outcomes and look at the big picture. For example, on the big picture when we discussed semiconductor manufacturing, we are looking at a much deeper engagement with the US on semiconductor manufacturing,” the minister said.
Several American companies are looking at the big Indian opportunity on defense production, making it competitive, giving an opportunity to tap into the large Indian market, where they are encouraged to make India products and they feel comfortable working with India.
“Because unlike other countries, we do not steal technology. We allow you to maintain the sanctity of your technology. We allow you to keep your technology with you. We don’t demand technology transfer,” he asserted.