US trade team in Delhi on exploratory visit ahead of trade talks
11 July 2019
A team led by two top officials from the US Trade Representative's office has arrived in New Delhi on a "relationship-building" visit, probably to feel the impact of US President Donald Trump’s tweet that India's high tariffs are no longer acceptable.
"Since India’s election period has now passed, USTR officials are visiting India for relationship-building with their Indian government counterparts, including introductory meetings for the new Assistant USTR for India, Christopher Wilson. AUSTR Wilson and the Deputy Assistant USTR Brendan Lynch are in New Delhi on July 11-12," according to a USTR spokesperson.
The US team, in all probability, will not get into serious talks and will only explore all outstanding issues souring bilateral relations to be brought up and the way ahead.
The US trade officials are expected to meet senior commerce ministry officials, including the commerce secretary, as also senior officials from the ministry of external affairs, a Hindu BusinessLine report quoted official sources as saying.
Frictions in India-US trade started with the US deciding to impose countervailing duty on imports of steel and aluminium from India and some other countries. The situation worsened after Washington decided to withdraw a scheme of preferential treatment of duty-free entry to over 3,000 products from India under the GSP scheme in early June.
India retaliated with import duties on 28 US products with effect from 16 June, after delaying it for a year.
The US is India's largest trade partner and imports a large variety of items from the country, including several labour-intensive products.
A meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Osaka last month on the sidelines of the G-20 conference, failed to clear the air and decided re-start trade talks.
The US moved the World Trade Organisation against the 'retaliatory' tariffs, which it calls unfair and also demanded that New Delhi lift price restrictions on medical equipment, labelling restrictions on dairy products and lower duties on a variety of products. These include smartphones, other IT and telecom products and Harley Davidson motorbikes.
Trump has been relentless in his criticism of India’s high tariffs ever since he came to power. The US president considers US trade deficit with India is the result of the country's import duties.
New Delhi, however, has been arguing that its exports feed the American industry, which benefit from high quality, cheap inputs from India.
Moreover, India has also taken steps to lower the deficit by buying more oil and gas from the US despite higher costs only to appease the US, which has imposed economic sanctions against Iran for its alleged nuclear activities.