Source: Economic Times
NEW DELHI: India and the US have agreed to step up bilateral engagement, building on the progress made after the two countries recently reached a landmark deal to break the deadlock at the WTO, but did not report any progress on contentious issues at the ministerial-level meeting in Delhi on Tuesday. Officials from the two countries will hold as many as 20 face-to-face or video conferences before the next meeting of the India-US trade policy forum (TPF) next year to reach agreement on enhanced market access for farm products, common ground on contentious intellectual property rights and also visa and totalisation issues important to Indian professionals.
The trade policy forum that took place after a gap of four years was co-chaired by commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her US counterpart, Trade Representative Michael Michael Froman. The forum is the principal trade dialogue body between the two countries, with five focus groups – agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity, services and tariff and non-tariff barriers.Bilateral trade stands at around $100 billion.
The next TPF round will take place in the US in 2015. “Both countries noted each other’s requests and agreed to follow up on exploring the possibility of enhanced market access on identified agricultural products,” said the joint statement released after the talks.To facilitate movement of agricultural goods, India and the US agreed to establish a new technical dialogue to promote cooperation on plant health, animal health and food safety issues. Market access for farm products such as ice, mangoes, pomegranates and table grapes has been one of India’s key demands, facing nontariff barriers on account of high US food safety norms.
India’s food-labeling requirements for wholesale imports has impacted those from the US. The two sides agreed to a work towards a “potential reconciliation of the definition of wholesale pack between Departments, forthcoming rules to allow stickering of maximum retail price at the port, and timely implementation efforts concerning these issues.
The current rules say the maximum retail price (MRP) has to be printed and not stickered onto the item, blocking imported goods.Froman acknowledged India’s long-pending demand of a social security or totalization pact, which will protect interests of professionals of Indian origin who contribute more than $1 billion each year to US social security through federal taxes without availing any benefits in return.”They decided to continue their engagement on visa issues, and the United States took note of India’s interest in ensuring easier access for Indian professionals in the United States”, the joint statement said.
The US also agreed to facilitate further engagement on India’s traditional knowledge to enhance access to affordable healthcare. On common IPR concerns, India and the US agreed to deepen cooperation to build capacity and generate awareness on copyrights.
Speaking to reporters, Froman welcomed India’s Make in India initiative to boost manufacturing but cautioned that domestic sourcing requirements to achieve this objective could prove counterproductive.The US has objected to the localsourcing clause in India’s solar programme. Washington is also closely following proceedings in Parliament to see if the insurance bill that proposes to raise foreign investment limit in the sector to 49% from current 26% goes through.”I think there is a lot of interest in the draft insurance law that is before Parliament… It has been discussed for a long time,” Froman told reporters after the ministerial-level trade talks.On the contentious issue of the intellectual property regime in the pharma sector Froman said there was need to take a broad-based view.