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India, US will complete a quick trade deal in a couple of calls, says Commerce Minister Goyal

Piyush Goyal says India and the US will go for a preferential trade agreement first on 50-100 goods and services, followed by a larger free trade agreement.

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New Delhi: India and US will soon complete a “quick deal” that will get finalised in a “couple of calls” as the Donald Trump administration is headed for a presidential election, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said Tuesday.

Goyal said the “quick deal” will be similar to a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), under which tariffs on 50-100 products traded between the two countries will be slashed, with a larger and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to follow.

India and the US have been trying to hammer out a small trade deal for more than a year now. However, both sides got stuck due to a range of issues from market access to agricultural products, including dairy products, medical devices, and information and communications technology (ICT) products.

“I believe we have a quick trade deal… (There are) some pending matters built up over the last couple of years, which we need to get out of the way quickly. We are almost there. A couple of calls and we will sort it out,” Goyal said at the virtual US-India Business Council’s India Ideas Summit.

Also read: India needs more ‘regulatory stability’ to compete with China, US trade body chief says

‘Early harvest’

The minister said India and the US should look at an “early harvest” in the shape of a PTA.

“We believe we should look at an early harvest in the form of a PTA rather than waiting for the gains of FTA, which may take several years to conclude… We could look at an early harvest of maybe 50 or maybe 100 products and services, where we can engage with mutual trust and an open spirit, so that the partnership between the US and India can kickstart much faster,” he said.

Goyal added that as intimated by the US Congress, the US and India would then need to sit down on the negotiating table.

“I don’t know if it can be done before the (US) elections, or post the elections. But we need to work towards a much more sustainable, much more robust, much more enduring partnership in the form of an FTA, to which India is willing to work with an open mind, with a willingness to open our hearts and markets with a corresponding opportunity for Indian businesses in the US,” he said.

India is believed to be keen on the PTA to be able to export more generic drugs to the US, in return for the slashing of tariffs on farm goods, including dairy products.

Earlier this month, the Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, had mentioned that concluding a PTA will be a “win-win proposition” for the countries, as it will cover up a lot of ground that will be needed to sign a larger trade deal in the form of an FTA.

India has also been pushing the US to restore the trade benefits under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which was suspended in June last year.

Also read: How a dispute over American chicken legs pushed India-US trade ties downhill


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