Washington: Reiterating that President Donald Trump and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are frustrated with the lack of balance and reciprocity from India when it comes to trade and tariff, a top Administration official has said that the new round of discussion between the two countries is not open-ended and the US wants things to move quickly.
"The president and the ambassador Lighthizer have been frustrated with the lack of balance and reciprocity in the trade relationship. I think, we are at a pivotal juncture here in our relationship and at a critical intersection between a frustrating last few years that we've had and a possible future relationship that at this point is not really defined and is still being tested," Jeffrey D Gerrish, Deputy United States Trade Representative said.
Gerrish's comment on India-US trade relationship came during a fire side chat at the Second Leadership Summit of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), as a team of US trade officials started talks with their Indian counterparts on trade related issues in New Delhi.
"There are a number of important issues that we have between us. We certainly have a number of important issues we were working on as part of the GSP review we had. But we need to move beyond the GSP review at this point and tackle the broader issues that we have between us and take a more comprehensive approach to the trade issues that we have," he said.
Lighthizer, has made that clear to the new Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, he said. The two leaders have had a good discussion on that thus far. "And we are hopeful that they will continue to have meaningful, important, productive discussions," he said in response to a question.
Listing out some of the issues between the two countries, Gerrish called for addressing the trade and tariff issues between the two countries in a comprehensive manner. "I think it is important now that we do try to address comprehensively the trade issues that we have between us," he said.
Among the issues are market access, and those related to agricultural and non-agricultural products, and other critical issues in areas involving digital trade, services and intellectual property protection and enforcement. Gerrish said that the team of USTR officials led by Assistant US Trade Representative, Christopher Wilson is in New Delhi talking about those issues.
"They are not there to negotiate at this point. They're just there to lay out the full amount and full slate of issues that we have to try to see if this new Indian government has the willingness and the wherewithal to address these issues and resolve them," he said.
The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month was good and productive, he said. They gave very clear directions to their trade officials to try to resolve what has been a chronically difficult part of this relationship with respect to these trade issues.
The two governments have followed up on that direction, he added. Lighthizer has had good interactions so far with Goyal and the US is in New Delhi right now to try to see what US can do to resolve these longstanding issues, he said.
But at this point, he said, the US is in the very early stages of its engagement with new Indian government. "At this point, it's too early to speculate as to what the next steps will be and what the timing will be on those any next steps or any actions that we would take.
But I think it's fair to say that this is not going to be an open-ended discussion. We need to move quickly. And time is certainly of the essence," Gerrish said when asked if the US is considering Special 301 investigations against India.
"It would be helpful to see some early harvest items that we could achieve here. We do think that most of the market access issues that we have, although longstanding in nature, and even those that were included in the GSP review are ones that should be able to be resolved quickly and without a lot of administrative difficulty," he said.
A resolution of those issues would be a confidence building measure and be helpful in that process to the extent that there are any issues that are more structural in nature, the United States certainly would be looking to the Indian government to work very closely with it and coming up with creative solutions for how to address those, Gerrish said.
"But we really do need to see very strong concerted, expeditious action here to resolve these, as I mentioned, many of them are long standing issues," he said.
It is too early in terms of the engagement with the new government to set a timeframe on it, but US would want to move very quickly on this “we can't have this be something which is dragging on in any way,” he said, asserting that the Trump Administration would expect very quick engagement and resolution of the issues.
Responding to a question, Gerrish said that the US has been trying to make the case as strongly as possible to the Indian government, trying to get them to terminate the data localisation policies that they are considering or have in place.
"I think it's been helpful that the new government is indicated that they want to consult on these policies and provisions that they are considering. I certainly welcome that. It would be a really problematic step if those were to be put in place and could really hurt the new engagement that we have and potentially halt that altogether across the board on the trade issues," he warned.