India resume trade talks with focus on tariffs, data, e-commerce

Nellie Chapman
July 13, 2019

US President Donald Trump has been putting pressure on India to do more to open its markets, saying this week on Twitter that its high tariffs were "unacceptable".

US and Indian trade negotiators ended talks on Friday without making major progress on a range of disputes over tariffs and other protectionist measures imposed by both sides that are straining bilateral ties, according to officials with knowledge of the discussions.

India on Thursday said that it seeks very constructive and positive engagement with the U.S. counterparts.

With India and the United States sticking to their protectionist attitude, the trade talks on Friday largely remained inconclusive as neither side listed any major outcome from the bilateral talks.

The delegation led by assistant United States trade representative Christopher Wilson is in India to explore potential for enhanced bilateral trade and economic engagement under the new government. The US officials will also meet Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday.

Additional secretary in the commerce ministry Sanjay Chadha led the talks for India. This week, Trump tweeted that "high" duties were "not acceptable". "We have to keep in mind the bigger picture and within that big picture address all issues on the table", the MEA spokesperson said.

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"The meeting aimed at providing new impetus to bilateral trade and commercial ties, in line with the mandate given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting at Osaka, Japan on June 28, 2019", the statement added.

In a recent meeting, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told trade ministry officials that "Trump is clearly preparing for a larger game, a larger opening", according to one of the officials aware of the discussions. The MEA spokesperson said that India and the USA during the meeting in Osaka had decided that officials from both sides would meet and resolve all outstanding trade issues.

"No breakthrough", said one of the senior Indian officials involved in the talks in New Delhi, which lasted a little over three hours. Sources said that besides trade and tariff, data localisation issues could be discussed.

While tariffs on a number of products such as smartphones, other IT and telecom items and Harley Davidson motorbikes are one of the focus issues for the U.S. for the talks, the other two are e-commerce rules and data localisation. There are certain irritants which both countries want to sort out to push the bilateral trade.

The US is India's largest trade partner and imports a large variety of items from the country whichinclude several labour-intensive products. The US would urge India to ease restrictions on ecommerce and data localisation norms which impact American companies like MasterCard and Walmart.

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