Regular India-US engagements under Trade Policy Forum will help remove barriers to trade: USIBC

Washington, Nov 24 (PTI) A regular engagement between India and the United States under the bilateral Trade Policy Forum mechanism will help remove barriers to trade, facilitate higher levels of investment and increase two-way trade in goods and services, the US India Business Council has said, as it welcomed the outcome of the latest round of bilateral trade talks.
For the first time in four years, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai co-chaired the 12th ministerial-level meeting of the India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“We’re encouraged with the positive statements coming from both sides and are certain regular engagements under the Forum will help removing barriers to trade, facilitate higher levels of investment and increase two-way trade in goods and services,” the USIBC said after Goyal and Tai’s meeting.
In a statement, the USIBC congratulated Goyal and USTR Tai for a successful reconvening of the US-India Trade Policy Forum and said that they are glad to see the robust agenda set forth by the leaders.
“Today’s meeting also confirms the widespread benefit of U.S.-India commercial partnership and the importance of innovation and investment, reaffirming the importance of collaboration on the Quad, climate, health, and labour issues, the council said.
The bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 80.5 billion in 2020-21. India received USD 13. 8 billion foreign direct investment from the US during 2020-21.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the robust rebound in bilateral merchandise trade this year (January-September 2021), which showed almost 50 per cent growth over the same period in the previous year.
The bilateral merchandise trade in the current year is poised to surpass the USD 100 billion mark.
“In addition, the US agreed to work to complete India’s request for table grapes access to the US, and India agreed to work to finalise the mutually agreed export certificate to allow the importation of US pork and pork products,” a joint statement issued by the two countries said.
India and the US have agreed to work on ways to export mangoes from India as well as to import cherries and alfalfa hay for animal feed from America.
During the meeting, India asked for restoration of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) benefits to Indian exporters on which the US side stated that this could be “considered”, it said, adding that both the ministers exchanged views on potential targeted tariff reductions.
To further promote trade, the two ministers expressed an intent to continue to work together on resolving outstanding trade issues as some of these require additional engagement in order to reach convergence in the near future.
“They agreed further to utilise the revitalised TPF and its Working Groups as a means of rapidly engaging on new trade concerns as they arise, and that they would take stock at quarterly intervals to evaluate progress in this regard,” the joint statement said.
Besides, the two countries agreed to engage on US concerns regarding regulatory approvals for the Distillers’ Dried Grains with Solubles, and India’s concerns regarding market access for water buffalo meat and restoration of market access for wild caught shrimp.
The ministers also agreed to work together on issues of child labour and forced labour in global supply chains in order to promote resilience and sustainability.
On the pharma sector, the US acknowledged India’s concerns regarding delays, arising from the COVID pandemic, in US regulatory inspections of Indian pharmaceutical facilities.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to evaluate COVID conditions and is conducting prioritised inspections when there is minimal risk to company and FDA officials.
On visa issues, India and the US decided to continue their engagement and acknowledged that the ongoing discussions on a Social Security Totalisation Agreement and welcomed further engagement on pursuing such an agreement.
It is a long pending demand of India for early conclusion of the totalisation agreement or Social Security Agreement with the US.
It aims to protect the interests of professionals of Indian-origin who contribute more than USD 1 billion each year to the US social security. Under this pact, professionals of both the countries would be exempted from social security taxes when they go to work for a short period in the other country.
Further the two ministers directed the TPF Working Groups to develop, by March 2022, plans of action for making substantive progress.