Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump, right, listens during a meeting at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg)

U.S. Frustrated With Lack Of Balance In Trade Ties With India

The U.S. wants its trade talks with India to move quickly, said a top Administration official, reiterating that U.S. President Donald Trump and the Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are frustrated with the lack of balance and reciprocity from India when it comes to trade and tariff. This comes right before a new round of discussion between the two countries.

"The president and the ambassador Lighthizer have been frustrated with the lack of balance and reciprocity in the trade relationship. I think, we are at a pivotal juncture here in our relationship and at a critical intersection between a frustrating last few years that we've had and a possible future relationship that at this point is not really defined and is still being tested," Jeffrey D Gerrish, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative said.

Gerrish's comment on India-U.S. trade relationship came during a fire-side chat at the Second Leadership Summit of U.S. India Strategic and Partnership Forum, as a team of U.S. trade officials started talks with their Indian counterparts on trade related issues in New Delhi.

"There are a number of important issues that we have between us. We certainly have a number of important issues we were working on as part of the Generalized System of Preferences review we had. But we need to move beyond the GSP review at this point and tackle the broader issues that we have between us and take a more comprehensive approach to the trade issues that we have," he said.

Lighthizer, has made that clear to the new Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, he said. The two leaders have had a good discussion on that thus far. "And we are hopeful that they will continue to have meaningful, important, productive discussions," he said in response to a question.

Also read: U.S., India Trade Talks to Restart After Trump’s Tariff Tweets

Listing out some of the issues between the two countries, Gerrish called for addressing the trade and tariff issues between the two countries in a comprehensive manner. "I think it is important now that we do try to address comprehensively the trade issues that we have between us," he said.

Among the issues are market access, and those related to agricultural and non-agricultural products, and other critical issues in areas involving digital trade, services and intellectual property protection and enforcement.

Gerrish said that the team of USTR officials led by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative, Christopher Wilson is in New Delhi talking about those issues. "They are not there to negotiate at this point. They're just there to lay out the full amount and full slate of issues that we have to try to see if this new Indian government has the willingness and the wherewithal to address these issues and resolve them," he said.

The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month was good and productive, he said. They gave very clear directions to their trade officials to try to resolve what has been a chronically difficult part of this relationship with respect to these trade issues. The two governments have followed up on that direction, he added.

Lighthizer has had had good interactions so far with Goyal and the U.S. is in New Delhi right now to try to see what U.S. can do and try to resolve these longstanding issues, he said. But at this point, he said, the U.S. is in the very early stages of its engagement with new Indian government.

Also read: Trump Says India’s Move to Hike Tariffs ‘No Longer Acceptable’

"At this point, it's too early to speculate as to what the next steps will be and what the timing will be on those any next steps or any actions that we would take. But I think it's fair to say that this is not going to be an open-ended discussion. We need to move quickly. And time is certainly of the essence," Gerrish said when asked if the U.S. is considering Special 301 investigations against India.

"It would be helpful to see some early harvest items that we could achieve here. We do think that most of the market access issues that we have, although longstanding in nature, and even those that were included in the GSP review are ones that should be able to be resolved quickly and without a lot of administrative difficulty," he said.

A resolution of those issues would be a confidence building measure and be helpful in that process to the extent that there are any issues that are more structural in nature the United States certainly would be looking to the Indian government to work very closely with it and coming up with creative solutions for how to address those, Gerrish said. "But we really do need to see very strong concerted, expeditious action here to resolve these, as I mentioned, many of them are long standing issues," he said.

Also read: Trump’s Trade Attack Pushes India to Negotiating Table

Bloomberg Quint

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