Visiting U.S. trade officials will meet with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday, after two days of talks with a “composite delegation” from the Commerce ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs, the first formal effort to resolve the recent Indo-U.S. trade impasse.
“Since India’s election period has now passed, USTR officials are visiting India for relationship building with Indian government counterparts, including introductory meetings,” said a spokesperson for the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The U.S. delegation is led by the Assistant USTR for South and Central Asia, Christopher Wilson, and talks on the Indian side are being led by an Additional Secretary from the Commerce ministry.
On Thursday, the two sides met for “informal” talks, and “comprehensive” formal talks will begin on Friday, officials said. The USTR visit was agreed upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump when they met in Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.
“Our approach is to engage [with the USTR team] constructively, in a positive manner,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday. “Many of these issues were discussed by PM and President Trump and we look forward to resolving them... many are technical in nature like tariffs, we will have to wait and see how they will be addressed, and what is the outcome of the talks,” he added.
Tariffs likely in focus
The two sides will discuss the issue of tariffs, which have been raised on both sides in the past year, as well as regulatory changes by India on data localisation, e-commerce and import curbs, that the U.S. has protested. Mr. Trump has tweeted twice in the recent past, before and after his meeting with Mr. Modi, and on both occasions criticised India on high tariffs. Since he took office in January 2017, Mr. Trump has consistently pushed for India to cut tariffs on Harley Davidson motorcycles to zero to match American duties on Indian motorcycles, but there has been no indication that New Delhi is prepared to oblige yet.
The MEA spokesperson declined to comment specifically on which issues were being discussed on Thursday and Friday, including whether the U.S. objections to Chinese telecommunications company Huawei being considered for 5G trials was among them, but said that the “entire gamut of issues related to trade will be on the table.”
The two sides are also expected to set a date for a meting between Mr. Goyal and the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the next few weeks, when trade talks will be formally resumed after they collapsed in November, and the standoff escalated after the U.S. withdrew India’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) trade status this year.