Many issues on tap for Trump-Modi visit

Source: Politico | June 26, 2017

TRUMP’S CHANCE TO RESET THE INDIA TRADE RELATIONSHIP: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House today, where they are expected to broach a wide-range of issues, including arms sales to energy deals. On the trade side, the question is whether a Trump-Modi partnership will move the commercial needle on the relationship in areas where businesses felt the Obama administration’s “Strategic and Commercial Dialogue” fell short.

“There are challenges in the trading sphere and both sides look to increase their market access,” a senior White House official said during a press briefing on Friday previewing the visit.

“The U.S. is looking for things like stronger intellectual property protections, reductions in tariffs and I think this visit offers an opportunity to advance that trade dialogue and look for opportunities that will enhance prosperity and create jobs for both sides,” the official said, adding later that India may want better access in the U.S. for exports of its mangoes.

The Trump administration is expected focus on whittling down the $24 billion trade deficit with India, but that won’t come easy. There may not be much low-hanging fruit — as was the case with China and its agreement to follow through on a long-held commitment to open its market to U.S. beef.

India has long been a difficult market for U.S. agricultural exports and has been slow to respond to U.S. concerns over intellectual property protection and a host of other non-tariff barriers, such as burdensome licensing and testing requirements.

“Prime Minister Modi talks about the benefits of a strong bilateral trade relationship with the United States, but the truth is more sobering: The U.S.-India relationship continues to lag its potential by a large margin,” Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, wrote in a recent op-ed. NAM sent out a failing “scorecard” showing where the economic relationship is lagging.

CONGRESSIONAL TRADE LEADERS PUSH FOR TOUGH TALK: The “big four” lawmakers on trade on Capitol Hill all could agree that India hasn’t held up its end of the bargain when it comes to expanding trade opportunities for U.S. exporters.

“While Indian businesses continue to benefit from open U.S. markets, India has failed to eliminate, or even address concretely, multiple trade and investment barriers,” Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee; and Reps. Kevin Brady and Richard Neal, the chairman and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote in letter sent to the White House on Friday.

Specifically, the four leaders asked Trump to push Modi to tackle inconsistent and transparent licensing and regulatory practices, as well as address what they called an inadequate protection of intellectual property rights. They also highlighted high tariffs on certain products – they mentioned almonds, medical devices and information technology goods – as another nettlesome issue.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, at last week’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, said the two governments have been working on several trade “irritants,”such as India’s pricing policies for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, as well as intellectual property rights concerns. He added that the “We’re hoping that we end up with a list of deliverables that come out at the time of the president’s meeting with the prime minister,” Lighthizer said. He said one option is to take India to the WTO to enforce U.S. trading rights if dialog fails.

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