India seeks access to US market for agricultural products

news
20 October 2016

Nirmala SitharamanIndia is seeking greater market access for its agricultural products in the US market. At the India-US trade policy forum, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitaraman also sought lowering of US duties for small and medium exporters.

India has made a case for greater market access for basmati, grapes and mangoes at the series of meetings between officials which includes ministerial-level talks between USTR Michael Froman and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Sitharaman also raised the issue of US Totalisation and Social Security Act with United States trade representative Michael Froman.

"We have asked for two more testing centers for mangoes to be opened, to smoothen its export to the United States," Sitharaman said, adding that India had also taken up the issue of lowering of export charges for small and medium exporters during talks with US representatives.

The Trade Policy Forum covers five focus groups, including agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity (intellectual property rights), services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.

It was pointed out that then US Totalisation and Social Security Act discriminates Indian workers in the US who end up losing their social security contributions due to discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes.

India wants early conclusion of the totalisation agreement. It aims to protect interests of professionals of Indian-origin who contribute more than $1 billion each year to the US social security.

Under this pact, professionals of both the countries would be exempted from social security taxes when they go to work for a short period in the other country.

India has also stressed on the formidability of its IPR policy to the United States.

The US is India's largest export market accounting for more than $40 billion of exports in 2015-16. But the hefty additional fees imposed on temporary work visas by the US last year has hit mostly Indian IT professionals working for companies such as Infosys and Wipro. Although India has dragged the US to the WTO on the matter, it is finding it difficult to build a sound case due to difficulty in accessing relevant data on visas issued by the US government.

India's agricultural product exports to the US also face problems due to unwarranted regulations that intended to restrict imports of mangoes, basmati rice and grapes from India.

''Although the US allows exports of mangoes and basmati rice, there are many issues related to sanitary and phytosanitary norms that act as irritants. These have to be removed,'' the official said.

The US, on its part, would push India to tighten its IPR norms and move beyond the commitments made in the multilateral TRIPS agreement entered into by all World Trade Organisation (WTO) members. New Delhi has been maintaining that while it would work towards have an easier and friendlier IPR regime for innovators, at least in the case of essential medicines and medical formulations, it was not ready to take on additional commitments as it would harm the interest of poor patients in the country.





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