Trade deal unlikely to be finalised with India: US officials

There have been talks about India and the United States agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal

The senior administration official said "the Make in India push of the Indian government, has made the protectionism concerns" even more of a concern to the United States.

Trump administration officials on Friday (February 21) acknowledged that US President Donald Trump’s visit to India next week will not result in a trade deal, saying that concerns that led to India’s removal from the Generalized System of Preferences persisted.

“The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) access remains a concern for us. And to remind, it was really the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors,” a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25. There have been talks about India and the United States agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been negotiating a trade deal with India, is not travelling with Trump on the India trip. In fact, he had cancelled his earlier trip to India as well.

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“We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers. Our trade teams, led by the USTR, have been in touch with their counterparts over the past several weeks. That engagement will continue,” the official said.

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“The trade and economic relationship with India is critically important to the United States, and I think also access to the United States market is critical to the Indian government. We do want to make sure that we get this balance right. We want to address a bunch – a lot of concerns, and we’re not quite there yet,” the official said in response to a question.

The high-powered American delegation led by Trump will likely have a discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about these concerns and continue the discussion beyond this visit, said the senior administration official.

The official said a number of announcements coming from India in the past several weeks, are making the discussions a bit more difficult perhaps.

“Recent announcements on Make in India have made the protectionism concerns in India even greater. So we will be discussing those concerns. And what we see as an increase in barriers, not a decrease, this will certainly come up among the leaders,” the official argued.

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do. That said we have a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that were very pleased to announce in a number of key sectors,” said the senior administration official.

The senior administration official said “the Make in India push of the Indian government, has made the protectionism concerns” even more of a concern to the United States.

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“We’ve seen India’s budget process recently used to raise tariffs on products of interest in the United States. We continue to see important divergences on e-commerce and digital trade. So its a pretty wide scope, frankly, of important service and goods access barriers that we need to address,” the official said.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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