India and the U.S. have “almost” finalised a limited trade deal, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said on July 21.
“…I believe we have a quick trade deal, which has some of the pending matters built up over the last couple of years, which we need to get out of the way quickly. We are almost there,” Mr. Goyal said at a virtual conference organised by the U.S.-India Business Council’s India Ideas Summit.“I think another couple of calls, and we should be able to sort that out,” he said.
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Mr. Goyal, who was speaking on a panel with Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera, also reiterated what both countries have declared earlier — that the longer term plan is to work towards a comprehensive trade deal. As an intermediate step between the imminent limited deal and the comprehensive deal, Mr. Goyal proposed a preferential trade agreement with the United States that would cover 50 to 100 goods and services.
On the free trade agreement Mr. Goyal said, “India is willing to work with an open mind, with a willingness to open our hearts and our markets, with a corresponding opportunity for Indian businesses in the U.S.”
“We believe that we should also look at an early harvest in the form of a preferential trade agreement so that we can, rather than waiting for the gains of a free trade agreement, which may take several years to conclude, we could look at an early harvest of maybe 50, maybe a 100 products and services…,” he said.
India and the U.S. were apparently close to finalising a limited trade deal several times over the past year, including when both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump were in New York last year for the United Nations General Assembly session. Again, in February this year the two sides scrambled — unsuccessfully — to finalise a mini deal that was to be announced during Mr. Trump’s India visit.
India wanted the U.S. to restore its access to the U.S. preferential trading system, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), an end to Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs, increased market access for some categories of Indian agricultural products and so forth.
U.S. concerns during the negotiations have included market access for American dairy and agricultural products, medical devices and a cut in information and communication technology (ICT) import tariffs. The U.S. has also had concerns with India’s digital trade policies (for instance FDI in commerce, data localisation).
In May, India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu had said India sending millions of doses of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the U.S., had built confidence between the two sides and had provided a foundation for a smaller trade deal. The U.S. at the time was stockpiling HCQ, which Mr Trump had talked up as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Earlier this week Reuters had reported that India was considering a deal in which it would open up its market to U.S. dairy imports through a quota system in return for the U.S. giving “concessions” to Indian generic drugs in the U.S.