India-China trade talks deadlocked

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Trade talks between India and China remained deadlocked with neither side willing to offer concessions to end the impasse, official sources said.

Recent bilateral talks on issues relating to farm products, which took place in the backdrop of the military standoff in the Doklam area of the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction, failed to make any headway, said the trade officials. China deferred taking a decision on grant of market access to Indian rice, pomegranate, okra and bovine meat, while India opted to stick to its ban on imports of apple, pear, milk and milk products from China, the sources said. The details of the talks will soon be shared with the Embassy of India in Beijing, they added.

The discussions were held with visiting officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) – the body “in charge of national quality, metrology, entry-exit commodity inspection, entry-exit health quarantine, entry-exit animal and plant quarantine, import-export food safety, certification and accreditation, standardisation, as well as administrative law-enforcement.”

“India has an alarming trade deficit that in our view emanates from obstacles to market access in China,” Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said in a speech in Singapore on July 11. Pointing out that negotiations on the long-standing boundary dispute also still continue, Mr. Jaishankar had said, “When the leaders of the two countries met at Astana, they reached consensus on [the point that]... India and China must not allow differences to become disputes. This consensus underlines the strategic maturity with which the two countries must continue to approach each other.”

India’s goods trade deficit with China, which had ballooned to $52.7 billion in 2015-16 from just $1.1 billion in 2003-04, eased marginally to $51.1 billion in 2016-17.

During the discussions with the AQSIQ officials, India’s animal husbandry department is learnt to have raised the issue of lack of market access for Indian bovine meat in China. China is yet to lift the import ban on India’s bovine meat that it had first imposed in 1990 in the wake of incidence of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in India. The Indian side, in the recent talks, had pointed out that India — through a strong FMD control programme — had ensured FMD-free regions, and that bovine meat was being exported to many countries from those areas. The Chinese side is, however, learnt to have said that since the visiting AQSIQ officials were those dealing only with plant quarantine, India ought to raise the bovine meat issues with the officials overseeing animal quarantine.

Incidentally, in January, China had reportedly agreed to lift this prohibition after their officials inspected certain abattoirs in India and expressed 'satisfaction' with the conditions there.

The discussions are said to have also turned awkward when the Chinese side brought up the issue of India’s ban on Chinese milk and milk products. The Indian negotiators reportedly resorted to a tit-for-tat approach by contending that milk products would fall outside the purview of the visiting AQSIQ delegation as they were only overseeing plant quarantine issues.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 9:22:39 PM |

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