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U.S. lawmaker calls for bilateral trade treaty with India

Senior lawmaker Ed Royce has called for an India-U.S. bilateral trade treaty, saying both countries agreed on liberalising trade further and a bilateral treaty could be the next step.

Senior lawmaker Ed Royce has called for an India-U.S. bilateral trade treaty, saying both countries agreed on liberalising trade further and a bilateral treaty could be the next step.   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

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For increasing bilateral trade to $500 billion, Ed Royce says, “We are trying to push the policies to liberalise trade.”

As the Donald Trump administration moves ahead with its plans to replace multinational trade treaties with bilateral ones, a senior lawmaker has called for an India-U.S bilateral trade treaty. Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said India and the U.S. agreed on liberalising trade further and a bilateral treaty could be the next step.

Mr. Royce was speaking at a reception organised by Indian American investor Devendra Verma for a visiting delegation from Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi, a think thank earlier headed by NSA Ajit Doval.

“…we are trying to push the policies [to increase bilateral trade to $500 billion], and the Prime Minister is also trying to push these policies. So we need an effective bilateral trade agreement treaty with India. We are pushing to liberalise trade further,” Mr. Royce, who had earlier on Thursday met Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, said. A bilateral trade treaty is among the topics of Mr. Jaishankar’s discussions with U.S. interlocutors, according to U.S. Congressional sources. The Foreign Secretary met U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday and was scheduled to meet Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Friday.

Pacts with U.K., Japan, Canada

The U.S. under Mr. Trump has already started exploring bilateral trade treaties with the U.K., Japan and Canada. “You will be shocked by the speed at which bilateral agreements begin to materialise,” Reuters had quoted an unnamed Trump adviser in January. The U.S. has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was designed as a 12-country trade pact. Mr. Trump has also ordered to tweak the North America Free Trade Treaty (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. India is the ninth largest trading partner of the U.S and bilateral trade is largely guided by WTO rules. “If both governments move ahead with a bilateral trade agreement, we will support it,” Mukesh Aghi, president of the U.S-India Business Council, told The Hindu.

High technology trade is guided by strategic calculations, and is often a point of friction in bilateral ties. India’s request for unarmed Guardian drones for maritime surveillance was given a green signal by the Obama White House, but appears struck in the U.S bureaucracy. “I have been frustrated with the Defence and State Department in terms of the sale of Guardian drones. This is going to be the next great thing of defence collaboration,” Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus said during a discussion at Widrow Wilson Centre, a Washington think-tank. Mr. Warner and Republican Senator Dan Sullivan called for speeding up the process and enhancing defence trade between the two countries.

Mr. Sullivan also called for joint military operations by India and the U.S “in areas of common interest.” The Senator mentioned this in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The proposal for Indian boots on the ground alongside the U.S has gained currency since the Trump administration took office.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 11:02:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-lawmaker-calls-for-bilateral-trade-pact-with-india/article17402295.ece

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