India An Important Trade And Strategic Partner: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai
Washington, Apr 1 (PTI) India is an important trading and strategic partner of the US, a top Biden administration official has told American lawmakers, asserting that despite some sharp differences, the two countries have agreed to work together on various issues, including the market access commitments.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday during a hearing on the US Trade Policy Agenda, noted that there are sharp differences between the two countries on a number of issues.
For instance, during her trip to India in November last year, there was a strong push back from India on the issue of alleged dumping of shrimps, she said.
“I have raised this directly with my Indian counterpart in Delhi last November when I visited him. I did get very forceful pushback. But I am committed to working with you on this issue. And that means in our own system, but that also means engaging the Indian government. And I look forward to exploring ways to do that,” Tai told Senator Bill Cassidy in response to a question.
Cassidy alleged that warm water shrimp from India are heavily subsidised and perhaps do not meet phytosanitary standards.
“Similarly, they apparently heavily subsidise their rice even before the seed is planted,” he alleged.
But the United States, last year, gained access for pork exports to India, Tai said, adding that she had held a meeting with Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.
Goyal, she told the Senators, “is very, very charismatic and also a very strong advocate for his country's policies; some of which I think we will be able to strategically align with and some of which will and have proven to continue to be challenging for us. It was very important for us as the USTR and for me personally to go to Delhi to revive that trade policy forum.”
As a result of the Trade Policy Forum, the US secured commitments from India to open up trade for the first time or to resume trade in a number of areas.
“The one that has been delivered soon has been access for our US pork and pork products into India. We will continue to build on this relationship, which is so strategically important, but also has traditionally been quite challenging,” she said.
During their meeting, Goyal had said that the “US and India have realised the necessity of diversifying their critical supply chains and both are poised to play an important role in developing a resilient supply chain”.
He had also suggested to take the bilateral relationship, which has changed over the past few years, particularly through defence cooperation and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, to the next level of engagement.
Senator Steve Daines said that he also met Goyal last year in New Delhi to advocate for reducing tariffs on Montana state and the US.
“We talked a lot about pulse -- and to see firsthand some of the leading technology companies. That was down in Bangalore,” he said.
“It was Delhi and Bangalore where I spent some time. It's clear that in the coming years, India is going to play an even larger role in the region. While it won't be easy, the US should consider entering formal negotiations with India, which presents an enormous opportunity for growth for US farmers, especially a state like Montana -- that is the number one producer of pulse crops, India the number one consumer,” Daines said.
Daines asked what the USTR is doing for the US-India Trade Policy Forum to address these long-standing agricultural market access issues.
“It is not a new problem we've had with India and particularly related to pulse crops?” he asked.
Senator Michael Bennet said India has been a critical US ally.
“I'm deeply concerned about the status and trajectory of our relationship with India, especially in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and India's reluctance to condemn what (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has done,” he said.
Tai said: “With respect to India, India is such an important trade partner and a strategic partner. India is complicated, and we live in a complicated world. It was extremely important for us in the Biden administration to restart that trade policy forum with India and to do it at the ministerial level”.
“It was the first time in four years that the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) had met at all. The last time it met in 2017, it was so fraught that the two sides did not even issue a joint statement. This time we issued a joint statement that was really robust, around five pages I think, and included important principles where we agreed to work together as well as market access commitments that we have made to each other.
“This will continue to be a complicated relationship. But to your point, it is an extremely important one and one where we need to continue to invest our dedication and our ability to make breakthroughs,” Tai added.
In the financial year 2021, the US exported over USD 1.6 billion of agricultural products to India. The total bilateral trade stood at USD 80.5 billion in 2020-21 as against USD 88.9 billion in 2019-20.
India's exports to the US stood at USD 51.62 billion in 2020-21 as against USD 53 billion in 2019-20. India's imports from the US stood at USD 28.9 billion in 2020-21 as against USD 35.9 billion in 2019-20, according to commerce ministry data.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without any modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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