India, US talk on Ross, Lighthizer visits

Updated - October 31, 2018 01:20 am IST

Published - October 31, 2018 01:19 am IST - New Delhi

Lingering trade issues between India and the United States could come to the boil in the coming weeks even as talks are on to decide the dates for proposed travel to New Delhi by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, according to official and industry sources.

According to original plans, Mr. Ross and Mr. Lighthizer were to be in India this week for the bilateral commercial dialogue and the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), respectively. The meetings could not be announced as several trade and tariff issues remained unresolved between the two countries.

India has now proposed December first week for Mr. Lighthizer’s visit for the TPF and the U.S has proposed 2019 January last week for Mr. Ross’s visit for the commercial dialogue. Neither India nor America has responded to the other’s proposal yet, an Indian official told The Hindu . Meanwhile, multiple points of friction between the two countries on trade issues could come to the forefront in the coming days.

India has developed cold feet over its offer of moving to a system of trade margin rationalisation to resolve the dispute over price ceiling for medical devices, according to an American business executive. American companies have been lobbying hard to change the Indian policy on this. An Indian official, however, said the proposal is still on the table and could move forward.

India’s retaliatory tariffs in response to American tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium are scheduled to go into force on November 2. Postponed twice earlier, it remains unclear whether India will indeed impose tariffs on American products including walnut, apples and almonds, which observers say could provoke the Donald Trump administration. The American deadline for discontinuing oil trade with Iran to avoid secondary nuclear related sanctions is November 4, and India has already made it clear that its imports from Iran will continue.

Another Indian measure that impacts American pharma companies Mylan and Pfizer is also scheduled to be effective on November 1. Pointing out the rampant misuse of the drug Oxytocin in the dairy industry where it is allegedly used to increase milk yield, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), declared on July 1 that no private producer can manufacture or distribute the drug for domestic use. The order is being challenged in the Delhi High Court, but as things stand, from November 1, only Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Ltd (KAPL), a public sector entity, would be permitted to manufacture and distribute Oxytocin in India. Mylan has 60 per cent market share of the drug in India and Pfizer has 15 per cent.

(With inputs from TCA Sharad Raghavan)

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