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Good News for Indo-US Trade Ties, Biden Admin to Consider Restoring GSP Status Revoked by Trump in 2019

In what could be good news for India-US trade relations, the United States has said it could consider restoring India as a beneficiary to its generalized system of preferences (GSP) programme. The previous Donald Trump-led administration had withdrawn India’s GSP status in June 2019. The GSP programme allows duty-free imports of some products from designated beneficiary countries.

At the twelfth ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in New Delhi on Tuesday, India highlighted its interest in the restoration of its beneficiary status under GSP programme. The US noted that this could be considered, as warranted, in relation to the eligibility criteria determined by the US Congress.

This is being seen as a move by the Joe Biden-led administration to dismantle Trump’s legacy, when it comes to bilateral as well as trade relations with other countries. India-US trade relations hit a rough patch after Donald Trump took over as president.

India was the largest beneficiary of the GSP programme in 2017 with over 5.5 billion goods going duty-free. Revoking the GSP status, the Trump administration had accused India of not giving equitable market access to some US products like medical equipment. It had also piled pressure on India for doing away with mandatory certification on dairy products.

Union minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal and US trade representative ambassador Katherine Tai co-chaired the TPF meeting. According to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in a joint statement by the US-India trade policy forum, the meeting was convened with a view to advancing the goal, announced by US President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at their September 24 meeting, to “develop an ambitious, shared vision for the future of the trade relationship”.

US appreciates recent spate of economic reforms by India

At the meeting, India and US focused on the robust rebound in bilateral merchandise trade this year (January to September), which showed almost 50 per cent growth over the same period in the previous year. According to the USTR statement, Tai expressed her appreciation of recent economic reforms by India, such as liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance sector, elimination of a retrospective provision in income tax, and launching of the “single window system” for facilitating investment.

Addressing global challenges together

Goyal and Tai also talked about the importance of India-US trade ties in addressing global challenges, especially the significance of creating resilient and secure supply chains in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries have agreed to work together in multilateral trade bodies, including World Trade Organization, G20 and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

India noted its interest in partnering with the US and its allies in developing a secure pharmaceutical manufacturing base so as to boost global supply chains. The ministers also discussed a range of regulatory issues affecting trade ties with respect to the health sector, with focus on India’s concerns regarding delays, arising from the pandemic, in US regulatory inspections of Indian pharmaceutical facilities.

Quad reprise

The ministers acknowledged work underway within the Quad framework, on issues of emerging technologies for economic growth, such as cyberspace, semiconductors, artificial intelligence, 5G, 6G and future generation telecommunications technology.

Covid-19 vaccination allowances

India welcomed the recent US decision to allow fully vaccinated Indians to travel to the country. The US and India decided to continue engagement on visa issues, and their shared resolve to facilitate the movement of professionals, skilled workers, experts, and scientific personnel.

Shared climate change concerns

The countries shared views on trade and environment matters, with focus on use of renewable energy and other clean technologies to achieve net-zero emissions, mobilising climate finance and scale up innovative clean technologies as agreed in the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership.

Other highlights from the bilateral trade meeting

Talking about progress on bilateral trade concerns, both the countries agreed to continue their joint work in agricultural and food products through the TPF Working Group on Agricultural Goods and committed to holding technical dialogues on animal health, plant health and food safety among others in 2022.

The USTR statement read that the countries welcomed engagement on intellectual property with a review of progress in copyrights, patents, trademarks, and sharing of national experiences regarding traditional knowledge and genetic resources.

The US and India also exchanged views on potential targeted tariff reductions. The US acknowledged India’s work on striking a balance between access to medical devices at affordable rates and availability of cutting-edge medical technology.

The US also noted its support for India’s ambitious goal of reaching 20 per cent ethanol blending with petrol by 2025 and expressed an interest in supplying ethanol to India for fuel purposes. Both the countries highlighted the important role of the services sector, including digital services, in India and the US. The ministers said there was potential in the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business travellers between the two countries.

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