Monday, 30th October 2017

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India and US work on trade deal

India is likely to allow some US dairy imports, the official said

By David Lawder and Neha Dasgupta/Reuters in Washington and New Delhi
  • Published 22.09.19, 2:09 AM
  • Updated 22.09.19, 1:16 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Trump and Narendra Modi are to meet on Sunday in Houston at an Indian-American rally dubbed “Howdy Modi!” at a 50,000-seat stadium — a sign of their warming relations, which are contributing to the expectations of a “mini-deal”. (AP Photo)

The United States and India are racing to negotiate a limited trade deal that President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can sign at the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of September, people familiar with the talks said.

A deal between the world’s most populous democracies would be a welcome victory for Trump, whose administration has made little headway negotiating an end to its prolonged trade war with China. Trump is also expected to sign a deal with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week that lowers Japanese farm tariffs.

The deal under discussion with India would lower some tariffs on US produce and restore preferential treatment for some Indian exports to America, the sources said.

Trump and Modi are to meet on Sunday in Houston at an Indian-American rally dubbed “Howdy Modi!” at a 50,000-seat stadium — a sign of their warming relations, which are contributing to the expectations of a “mini-deal”.

“There’s a push to get something done with India, with an eye for UNGA,” said a Washington-based source familiar with the discussions.

Trump has demanded better terms of trade from most of America’s top commercial partners, and blames previous deals for the loss of millions of US manufacturing jobs.

India-US trade relations have been fraught. Trump has repeatedly complained about India’s high tariff rates, including a 50 per cent tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

President Donald Trump at the White House on June 7, 2019.
President Donald Trump at the White House on June 7, 2019. (AP)

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

“We’ve been talking to the Americans, we have engaged them for many months now,” Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said at a news conference this week.

“My expectation is that some of the sharper edges, they would be addressed in some forms in the not too distant future.”

A US trade representative spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the US-India talks.

Modi, like Trump, has used tariffs to try and boost investment in manufacturing, a key part of his “Make-In-India” campaign to attract foreign cash and create factory jobs for millions of youth entering the workforce.

Apple Inc supplier Foxconn recently expanded its production of iPhones in India to avoid a 20 per cent import tariff and diversify its supply chain from China.

Bilateral US trade with India, at $142 billion last year, is just a fraction of the $737 billion worth of US-China trade.

Tariffs

In June, the US ended duty-free access for about $5.7 billion worth of Indian exports under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, including chemicals, plastics, leather and rubber goods and auto parts. India was the largest beneficiary of the GSP, which dates from the 1970s and was designed to help developing countries.

India responded with higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds, apples and walnuts.

India is the largest buyer of US almonds, paying $543 million for more than half of US almond exports in 2018, according to America’s department of agriculture. It is the second-largest buyer of US apples.

Pork, dairy, nuts

The talks are focused on US demands that India reduce agricultural tariffs, including those for almonds, pork, dairy products, cherries, apples and other commodities, people familiar with the talks in both Washington and New Delhi said.

India is likely to allow some US dairy imports, the official said. Another Indian official said that Washington was pushing New Delhi to remove its high pricing barriers on imported US medical devices, including cardiac stents.

In return, India wants the GSP restored for a few more years, as Modi struggles to boost exports dampened by sluggish global demand, made worse by the US-China trade war. New Delhi also wants market access for some of its farm products, such as grapes, to export to the US.

Washington is also seeking lower tariffs on high-end electronics products, one of the Indian officials said.

Both sides are discussing revising India’s domestic content rules on ethanol to allow more imports of the US fuel additive, two American sources said.

A narrow deal would be a positive first step and leave thorny issues aside such as the new e-commerce rules, said Roger Murry, deputy director of the Alliance for Fair Trade with India, a group of US trade associations.

“We’re hopeful that the Houston events can be bolstered by some real progress on the trade front that shows the US and India can negotiate some reasonable solutions,” Murry said.