U.S. Trade Representative to visit India on November 22

FILE PHOTO. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will travel to India next month, her office has announced

FILE PHOTO. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will travel to India next month, her office has announced

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will travel to India and other Asian countries next month, in her first trip to the region as the country’s chief trade negotiator.


Ms. Tai and Deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi will travel to Tokyo, Seoul and New Delhi “to meet with government officials and stakeholders to discuss the enduring U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and to strengthen trade and economic relationships with key allies and partners,” the office of the USTR said in a press statement. They will be in New Delhi on November 22 and return to Washington on November 24th. The officials will be in Tokyo on November 15th and Seoul on November 18th, the USTR announcement said.


The visit is presumably connected with the two countries’ intention to re-start the Trade Policy Forum – a dialogue to progress trade ties.


A joint statement following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the White House last month said the two countries “looked forward to reconvening the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum before the end of 2021, to enhance the bilateral trade relationship by addressing trade concerns, identifying specific areas for increased engagement and developing an ambitious, shared vision for the future of the trade relationship.” Nevertheless, during remarks in front of the press at the Oval Office last month, Mr. Modi brought up trade, but U.S. President Joe Biden did not mention it.


Enhancing global access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, via a waiver of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), is expected to come up during Ms. Tai’s visit. The WTO proposal, introduced by India and South Africa, has the support of the Biden administration.


The discussions in New Delhi are likely to be broader though, as suggested by the USTR statement. Issues that have been challenges to the relationship include India’s access to the U.S.’s preferential trade program (the Generalized System of Preferences or GSP) being revoked during the Trump years, agricultural market access for both countries, the U.S.’s concerns around the direction of digital trade policy in India and so forth. The GSP program expired – for all countries – on December 31 last year and has not been renewed by the U.S. Congress. For India to be re-admitted to the program, Congress would first need to reauthorize it.


In general, the activity in Washington around trade talks with India has been relatively tempered in the Biden administration, compared to the activity (and unpredictability) during the Trump administration. India and the U.S. were in discussions about a ‘mini trade deal’ which was to be followed up by negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during the previous administration. This administration’s USTR  has, thus far, focused on defining its trade policy  with China. The Biden administration has also signaled that it will focus  on labour and environmental standards in its trade policy.


The U.S. is not  looking for “new trade agreements” but India and the U.S. would work on “market access issues,” India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had said in August.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2022 3:43:54 am |