India and the United States today held their first round of formal trade talks, signaling their readiness to enhance bilateral trade and investment ties in a manner that promotes economic growth and job creation in both India and the United States.
India's minister of commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman and US trade representative Michael Froman met in New Delhi today for the eighth ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF), during which the two sides agreed to capitalise on the resolution of a global trade dispute to rekindle a bilateral dialogue after a four-year gap.
While no breakthroughs were reported at the Trade Policy Forum, the two sides exchanged views on a range of trade and investment issues, especially on agriculture, services, investment promotion in manufacturing, and intellectual property and agreed upon work plans for continued engagement in these areas in 2015.
Both countries noted the importance attached to the Trade Policy Forum by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama to further stimulate bilateral trade and investment, a joint statement said.
Both countries also recognised the important role of agricultural and food trade in feeding their populations, providing consumer choice and supporting the livelihood of their farmers. India and the US agreed to establish a new technical dialogue that will promote cooperation on plant health, animal health, and food safety issues in a manner that facilitates the movement of agricultural goods between the two countries, the statement added.
Froman said he was cautiously optimistic after the talks, but played down hopes of major "deliverables" at President Barack Obama's visit to India in January, his second after a trip in 2010.
He welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" drive to bring about a Chinese-style manufacturing boom, as well as initiatives to spread access to digital services and build smart cities.
At the same time, he urged India to keep its market open and ensure that foreign investors can operate in a "transparent, predictable and consistent" environment.
"Expectations are very high and it would be important to translate those expectations into concrete measures on the ground," he told a news briefing after the talks.
On services and investment, Sitharaman and Froman highlighted the important role of the sector in India and the United States, and the significant potential for increasing bilateral services trade and investment. To advance this goal, India and the US agreed to increase engagement on services and investment issues.
The US took note of India's interest in engaging on social security totalisation, and agreed to review any information provided by India about developments in its social security regime. They decided to continue their engagement on visa issues, and the United States took note of India's interest in ensuring easier access for Indian professionals in the United States.
Sitharaman highlighted India's efforts to promote foreign participation in key services sectors, including those of interest to the United States, and urged US investors to take advantage of these opportunities.
Sitharaman and Froman discussed efforts that each country is undertaking to promote a business friendly environment for attracting investment in manufacturing, moving forward on a commitment made by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014 to address this issue that is critical to each others' economy.
Affirming their shared goal of using trade and investment as a vehicle for stimulating economic growth and job creation, the two sides agreed to deepen bilateral engagement aimed at promoting bilateral investment across sectors.
Both countries stressed the importance of providing a transparent and predictable policy environment to help attract investments in manufacturing. In this regard, India and US will exchange information on stakeholder participation in the framing of trade and investment policies and procedures, and to discuss best practices.
Sitharaman and Froman discussed the ''Make in India'' campaign launched by Prime Minister Modi to promote India as a manufacturing destination, highlighting the pro-investment domestic reforms envisioned to facilitate the ease of doing business and create a climate that will attract investment.
On the sticky issue of intellectual property and related issues, recognizing the shared interest of our creative industries, India and the US agreed to deepen cooperation to build capacity and generate awareness in the field of copyright.
The two sides also acknowledged the paramount goal of ensuring the poorest populations in India and the United States have access to quality healthcare, and committed to identifying ways in which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to quality health and affordable medicines.
Sitharaman highlighted India's work on a new intellectual property rights (IPR) policy which would stimulate innovation across sectors in the country. The United States agreed to share information on this subject to support India's on-going efforts.
The Indian side highlighted the benefits of traditional Indian medicine in view of its potential to enhance access to affordable healthcare and the US side agreed to facilitate further engagement in this field between the experts of both countries.
Both countries recognise the importance of providing a transparent and predictable policy environment for fostering innovation.
India and the United States recognise the importance of trade secrets protection to attracting investment and agree to exchange information on best legal practices in this area.