Quality norms, smart cities to top agenda in India-US talks

An American private sector consortium is keen on master-planning activities to develop Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh as a smart city. Photo: K. R. Deepak  

India and the U.S. will focus on measures to improve the quality of goods and services, develop smart cities as well as promote entrepreneurship and innovation during the forthcoming bilateral Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD).

Talks are also likely on ‘ease of doing business’ initiatives in the context of the Parliament recently passing the Constitution Amendment Bill for Goods and Services Tax, according to official sources.

Trade, defence

The S&CD is the main bilateral forum to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in areas including trade and defence. The S&CD will be held in New Delhi during August 29-31. It will be co-chaired by the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry.

This will be the second S&CD and the first such meeting in India. The first S&CD was held in Washington DC in September 2015.

The sources said discussions on ‘standards’ — or norms to improve the quality of goods & services — will focus on cooperation between India’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and America’s National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) to develop reference materials. They said talks will be held with representatives from NIST as it is a leader in developing ‘reference materials’ — or precursors to ‘standards’ for ensuring the quality of products and their traceability.

Bureau of Indian Standards officials will also join the discussions, they said. NPL and BIS are national bodies on ‘standards’ in India. India and the U.S. will also consider a partnership between BIS and NIST for analysis of notifications made at the World Trade Organisation on food safety, and animal & plant health measures as well as on technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures.

India and the U.S. will also assess the progress made by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the American National Standards Institute in developing an online portal for standards information that can be used by the industry, especially small and medium firms.

Another area that will receive attention during the S&CD is infrastructure development and the proposal to build smart cities in India.

India will agree to facilitate visits of American delegations for smart city development, the sources said, adding that an American private sector consortium is keen on master planning activities to develop Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh as a smart city. In this regard, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency is providing grants to technical agencies including architectural firms for master planning.

The sources said India and the U.S. have decided that the bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) will, later on, take up issues such as the US government’s move to hike visa fee hurting Indian IT firms as well as the delay in negotiations on a bilateral social security pact (or totalisation agreement).

Bilateral disputes

The TPF will also look into issues relating to trade barriers and bilateral disputes at the WTO-level. The delay in talks on the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty will be taken up by another forum chaired by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, they said.

Bilateral trade in FY’16 had shrunk 3.4 per cent to $62 billion with India’s exports to the U.S. contracting 5.1 per cent to $40.3 billion and U.S. exports to India shrinking by 0.17 per cent to $21.7 billion.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 8:05:22 PM |

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