NEW DELHI: Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal may travel to the US next month to hold talks with his American counterpart, which may result in a trade deal with limited scope as the two sides appear close to a breakthrough on some key knotty trade issues. Goyal’s visit, which was earlier planned for August, could not materialise as American trade officials were discussing their bilateral issues with China.

US trade representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer too visited Shanghai briefly for trade negotiations. Till recently, the Donald Trump administration was occupied with the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) or the new NAFTA deal whose ratification remains pending.

“The visit is due since July. It may not happen before mid-September. The dates are yet to be decided,” said one official.

Goyal’s visit comes in the backdrop of India and the US having managed to resolve their differences over market access for agricultural commodities, pricing of medical devices, dairy imports and tariffs on ICT products.

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New Delhi is willing to allow dairy imports from the US if Washington can guarantee that these do not violate religious beliefs with veterinary officials certifying that the source animal was not raised on feed made of bovine extracts. Further, India has also decided to fix a threshold price for imported smart phones, beyond which it can levy customs duty, in order to accommodate the US’ demand to lower duty rates on mobile phones, smart watches and telecom network equipment.

However, the USTR has also sought data-related relaxations, including those in India’s e-commerce policy, which Indian officials said are nontrade issues and will be handled separately by the ministry of electronics and information technology.

MeitY is still in the process of finalising the proposed law on data privacy and the issue remains a sticking point in the bilateral talks. “The US was waiting for some substantial offers from India,” said a Delhi-based expert on trade and strategic issues. “Trade deal with a limited scope means the two sides have agreed for better tariffs in certain goods. Besides market access, the US’ key interests are in India’s e-commerce sector and medical devices.”

Trump has previously said that India and the US would have a “very big trade deal” to announce.

RENEWED PUSH

Goyal’s impending visit got a renewed push from a phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump on Monday, in which Modi referred to their bilateral discussion at the G-20 Osaka Summit in June wherein they agreed on an early meeting of commerce ministers to sort out trade issues.

The two sides got locked into a series of trade spats that began last year when the US imposed global additional tariffs of 25% and 10% on the import of steel and aluminium products, respectively. India responded by levying retaliatory tariffs on 28 products originating or exported from the US with effect from June 16, for which Washington dragged it to the World Trade Organization.

Bilateral talks collapsed after the US withdrew incentives to $6.3 billion of Indian exports under the Generalised System of Preferences programme effective June 5.

The two leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G-7 summit either later this week or early next week amid tensions over Kashmir.





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