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Export controls, ways to boost advanced tech trade — all about India-US Strategic Trade Dialogue

Jaishankar & US commerce secy Gina Raimondo agreed to launch the dialogue, expected to work slightly like oversight mechanism for trade of sensitive goods of national security interest.

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New Delhi: India and the US agreed Thursday to launch a Strategic Trade Dialogue, following a meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in Delhi.

The Strategic Trade Dialogue aims to address export controls, explore ways of enhancing high technology commerce, and facilitate technology transfer between the two countries.

Washington and New Delhi have been engaging in closer commercial ties through other mechanisms like the US-India CEO Forum and the US-India Commercial Dialogue, which was relaunched earlier this week after a gap of three years.

While the US-India Commercial Dialogue was co-chaired by Raimondo and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, the Strategic Trade Dialogue is expected to be led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Under Secretary, Bureau of Industry and Security in US Department of Commerce, Alan Estevez.

The Strategic Trade Dialogue is expected to work slightly like an oversight mechanism, with regard to trade of sensitive goods of national security interest.

It can also help streamline tech transfer processes and first in line could be the transfer of GE engine technology, Mukesh Aghi, CEO & President of Washington-based non profit US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) told ThePrint.

ThePrint contacted the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for a comment but did not receive a response.

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Dual control items

According to Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) director general Ajay Sahai, the Strategic Trade Dialogue may cover trade of advanced technology, and potentially dual control items, including non-civilian use.

Dual-use items are goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications.

“For dual-use items, like uranium which has nuclear purposes or certain chemicals used both in pesticides and explosives, knowing your end customer becomes very important. Such items should not fall into the wrong hands,” Sahai told ThePrint.

“For example, if an Indian company starts supplying a certain dual-use metal or chemical to a well-established US company whose credentials are ascertained, the same item should not be exported to a lesser known entity whose bonafides are under question.”

He added that it is important to create frameworks to ensure who the end users of sensitive exports are.

The announcement of the Strategic Trade Dialogue comes on the heels of the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET).

The iCET was launched earlier this year with a vision to elevate and expand the two countries’ strategic technology partnership and enhance cooperation in defense, business and other areas.

“Export controls” are expected to be a key factor under the Strategic Trade Dialogue.

Biswajit Nag, a professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), explained that in general literature, export controls refer to restrictions on exports of sensitive items for strategic purposes. This could be restrictions on a country’s own exports, he said.

“The US might give India a few exceptions to export control, such as in high-tech and critical technology. Hence, the mechanism may be used to discuss both export control issues and permission in trading high technology,” he added.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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