Key takeaways from 14th Ministerial-level meeting of India-United States Trade Policy Forum
Both sides express satisfaction at strong momentum in India-US bilateral trade in goods and services
The 14th Ministerial-level meeting of India-United States Trade Policy Forum held in New Delhi on January 12, 2024 saw both sides expressing their commitment to launch future joint initiatives in several areas, including critical minerals.
Discussions during the meeting, co-chaired by India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, also focused on the strong momentum in the India-US bilateral trade in goods and services which continued to rise and has likely surpassed $200 billion in calendar year 2023 despite the challenging global trade environment.
Here are the key takeaways from the meeting, according to the Joint Statement issued by both the sides:
1. The Ministers committed to pursue foundation to launch future Joint Initiatives in certain areas, including critical minerals, customs and trade facilitation, supply chains, and trade in high tech products, in which the United States and India will develop an ambitious and forward-looking roadmap for enhanced cooperation in order to achieve economically meaningful outcomes.
2. The Ministers agreed to establish a Joint Facilitative Mechanism (JFM) to mitigate non-tariff barriers which would pursue mutual recognition of results from International Laboratories and establish mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs), on a bilateral basis whenever possible. This would eliminate duplicative testing requirements and reduce compliance costs for trade in high-quality goods.
3. Ambassador Tai appreciated India’s G20 Presidency and the outcomes achieved in the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group, in particular the adoption of the High-Level Principles on Digitalization of Trade Documents. The Ministers agreed to further pursue support for the implementation of these principles in other forums thus building on the G20 outcomes, bilaterally.
4. The Ministers acknowledged the ongoing discussions on a Social Security Totalization Agreement and additional information provided by the Indian side to the US side as part of discussions. They also encouraged to fast track the engagement for a future agreement. Social Security/ Totalisation Agreement is one of the key asks from the Indian side in the TPF which will significantly contribute towards enhancing services trade between countries and help Indian IT professionals who temporarily work in the US.
5. The Indian side raised the issue of lifting the ban on exports of wild caught shrimps, which is a significant ask from the Indian side affecting Indian fishermen and our exports to the US market. USA is India’s top export market for shrimps. In this context, both the Ministers welcomed the finalization of the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) design developed with the technical support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). TED is an effective device in minimizing the impact of fishing on sea-turtle population and would foster enhanced seafood trade between the two countries.
6. Under the Resilient Trade Working Group which was launched during the 13th TPF, both sides deliberated further on the issue of India’s designation as a TAA Compliant country for which a formal discussion was initiated after the State Visit of the Prime Minister to the USA in June 2023. Discussions under TAA would contribute towards supply chain integration for India and the USA.
7. India also emphasized the need to increase the number of inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) in India to reach the pre-pandemic level. It may be noted that the USA is India’s top export market for pharma products. The exports to the US are growing at the rate of 6.7% in the last 5 years. In the backdrop of the pandemic, USFDA had stopped conducting inspections and audits in India for a long period, and resumed later, which resulted in huge backlog impacting product approvals and unit approvals / renewal.
8. The Ministers noted that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business visitors between the countries contributes immensely to enhancing bilateral economic and technological partnership. Minister Goyal highlighted challenges being faced by business visitors from India due to visa processing time periods and requested the United States to augment processing. The Ministers also acknowledged the role of professional services in catalysing bilateral trade between the two countries and noted that issues related to recognition of professional qualifications and experience can facilitate services trade.
9. Both Ministers also discussed the issue of import management system for specific hardware and Minister Goyal briefed her about India’s objectives, including those related to national security concerns, and Ambassador Tai expressed a willingness to collaborate with India on the shared objective of supply chain resilience in this sector.
10. Minister Goyal reiterated India’s interest in restoration of its beneficiary status under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program. Ambassador Tai noted that this could be considered, as warranted, in relation to the eligibility criteria determined by the U.S. Congress.
During the meeting, the two sides reviewed the substantial progress made in addressing concerns impacting the bilateral trade relationship since the 13th TPF held in January 2023. This was highlighted by the historic settlement of all seven longstanding trade disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO) between the two countries. These outcomes were delivered in the context of the historic state visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States in June 2023 and subsequently during the visit of US President Biden to India for the G20 Summit in September 2023.
“As vibrant democracies, both India and USA are natural partners and have trade complementarities, long standing strategic and economic relationship, and people to people contact. The two countries are also collaborating under the QUAD, I2U2 (India-Israel/ UAE-USA) and IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework) and Commercial Dialogue. Regular exchanges at the leadership-level have been an integral element of the expanding bilateral engagement. Ambassador Tai’s visit served to further strengthen the existing deep ties between India and the United States,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said.