U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may raise key trade issues

Wilbur Ross, who arrives today, will hold talks with Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal

Published - October 02, 2019 03:16 am IST - NEW DELHI

Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross

Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s U.S. visit, and the ongoing trade talks between the two countries, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrives in Delhi on Wednesday. Although Mr. Ross is not a part of the trade talks, which are being conducted by the Indian commerce ministry and the US Trade Representatives office, he is expected to raise several issues that have led to an impasse in the talks, officials said.

Mr. Ross will hold meetings with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal during the week.

Mr. Goyal has just returned from the U.S. where, despite several conversations with the USTR Robert Lighthizer, the two sides were not able to forge a breakthrough in talks. An expected announcement after talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Mr. Modi of some agreements, including rollback of tariffs, import duties on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), removal of price caps on medical equipment like knee implants, etc. was put off. Since then, officials say while the trade talks continued, no announcement could be made during PM Modi’s visit, or Mr. Goyal’s visit last week.

At a session titled “Trading against the Tide” at the World Economic Forum’s India summit on Thursday, Mr. Ross is expected to speak about the broader issues over the U.S.’s decision to revoke India’s GSP special export status, as well as the impact of the US-China trade war on regional markets.

Known for his plain-speaking, Mr. Ross has been particularly critical of what he calls “India’s discriminatory practices” and “significant market access barriers.” During a speech he gave on his last visit to India in early May this year, he warned that the U.S. would ensure reciprocity in all trade relationships, if India did not provide foreign business a “level playing field.” In particular, Mr. Ross singled out India for unexpected regulatory changes and for levying the “very highest” levels of average applied tariffs for any major economy in the world.

Subsequently, the U.S. cancelled India’s GSP status, which has led to a downturn in Indian exports, and threatened India with a “301” probe that could bring stricter trade measures against India. Despite Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi meeting four times since then and committing to sort out their trade issues, a deal between the trade representatives has proven elusive thus far.

Mr. Ross will also travel to Bangalore this week, and is expected to visit the Indian Space Research Organisation amongst his interactions.

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