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Donald Trump’s India visit: Major breakthroughs in trade unlikely as talks face headwinds

Donald Trump’s India visit: Major breakthroughs in trade unlikely as talks face headwinds

Donald Trump’s India visit: Major breakthroughs in trade unlikely as talks face headwinds
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By Rituparna Bhuyan  Feb 18, 2020 6:33:12 AM IST (Updated)

India-US trade parleys are not showing any signs of forward movement as of today. As many as 28 demands were raised by the US on trade, of which India was willing to take 25 issues forward in sectors such as chemicals, agri-products and motorcycles.

In about a week, US President Donald Trump will embark on his maiden visit to India as president of the US. But going by the current updates available with CNBC-TV18, the trade and commercial gains arising out of this high profile visit seems to be limited.

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According to sources, trade parleys remain stuck and are not showing any signs of forward movement as of today. As many as 28 demands were raised by the US on trade, of which India was willing to take 25 issues forward in sectors such as chemicals, agri-products and motorcycles. India is willing to engage with the US on its demand to bring down tariffs.
High tariffs charged by India on superbikes manufactured by the Milwaukee-based Harley Davidson have been flagged multiple times by President Trump. During the recent parleys, India was willing to recalibrate those tariffs.
However, on three issues India has put its foot down. Firstly, India has told US negotiators that it can’t give market access to US dairy products. India’s sensitivities on US dairy products arise from the fact that the cattle feed used by the sector is infused with animal extracts. “India has cultural sensitivities on this. There is no commitment from the US as of today on how they will certify that no animal extract-infused cattle feed was used in the production of milk that will be used to produce dairy products meant for India,” said a source in the know.
Another issue that US negotiators added to the list of demands is related to data. “US is insisting on free flow of data generated in
e-commerce portals, apps and financial transactions like credit card and debit card swipes,” the source added.
India has told the US that the current government is deliberating on regulatory framework related to both personal and non-personal data. This includes the Personal Data Protection Bill, which was tabled in Lok Sabha in December 2019 as well as a panel headed by ex-Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan, which is discussing government norms on aggregate data.
“The US wants its entire set of demands to be taken forward. The demand on three of these issues are ambitious and cannot be entertained at this stage by India,” the source observed.
US-India CEO’s Forum
While US-India trade parleys are facing strong headwinds, things don’t seem to be moving on commercial ties as well. According to sources, there seems to be no plans to convene the US-India CEO’s Forum which comprises the top brass of major companies from both sides.
The forum is usually convened during high-profile bilateral visits and it last met in February 2019 when US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Delhi. Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran and American Tower Corporation President and CEO James Taiclet were the co-chairmen of the forum in 2019.
The only B2B event of significance on the sidelines of the visit seems to be meeting that will be jointly organised by CII and USIBC. The event is scheduled to take place on February 25, and both Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to attend one of the sessions.
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