India, US discuss social security agreement for professionals

India and the United States are in the process of finalizing a social security totalisation agreement as the two countries have found that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business travelers between the countries contributes immensely to enhancing bilateral economic and technological partnership.

Co-chairing the 13th ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in Washington, on Wednesday, India’s minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal and US trade representative  Katherine Tai underlined the significance of the TPF in forging robust bilateral trade ties and enhancing the bilateral economic relationship to benefit working people in both countries. 
India-United States bilateral trade in goods and services continued to rise rapidly and reached about $160 billion in 2021. While welcoming this increase, the ministers recognised that for economies of their size, significant potential remains unfulfilled and expressed their mutual desire to further enhance engagement with the goal of continuing to increase and diversify bilateral trade.
The ministers noted the potential of enhancing trade in professional services between the two countries and the need for well-functioning pathways for recognition of qualifications in professional services, and deeper dialogue between the professional bodies of the two countries to facilitate this growth. Accordingly, the two countries proposed to encourage their regulatory bodies to engage in discussions on exchange of knowledge, capacity building, and recognition of qualifications to further enhance trade in professional services.
Recognising the key role of the digital economy in both the United States and India, the ministers affirmed the importance of a conducive ecosystem for digital trade that supports economic growth and innovation. They also agreed to enhance engagement through the TPF and ICT Working Group on policies impacting digital trade.
The two countries also proposed increased co-operation in the fintech sector, which could contribute to further expansion of the bilateral trade relationship.  They also discussed the importance of electronic payment services to furthering the trade relationship and expressed their intention to continue engagement in this area.
The ministers stressed the importance of resilient supply chains in fostering effective responses to health emergencies.  Goyal highlighted India’s interest in the potential of digital health, particularly telemedicine services as an element in continuity of care during the health emergencies.
In order to deepen and broaden US-India trade relationship, the ministers launched a new TPF Working Group on Resilient Trade. This new Working Group will enable officials to deepen bilateral dialogue on a range of issues that can enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the trade relationship so that it is better able to withstand current and future global challenges. It was decided that the next TPF ministerial meeting of the Resilient Trade Working Group will initially focus on deepening engagement on trade facilitation, which is particularly relevant to the construction of durable and sustainable supply chains. 
The ministers welcomed plans for a dedicated working session on trade facilitation in the coming months, including on digitisation of customs procedures, and that officials will also identify additional areas for future cooperation;
The importance of benefitting workers and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth, including cooperative engagement to promote labor rights and workforce development;
Expanded dialogue on good regulatory practices and pursuing cooperation in areas of mutual interest with an initial focus on respective procedures for developing rules and regulations in advance of the next TPF Ministerial meeting;
The role of trade in facilitating environmental protection and responses to common sustainability challenges including issues related to mobilisation of sustainable finance and scaling up of innovative clean technologies;
Both sides may also engage on issues of mutual interest related to circular economy approaches and promotion of sustainable lifestyle choices;
Besides, the two countries will seek additional means of strengthening the resilience in their global supply chains, especially in the critical sectors that underpin the two economies, as well as further work on these issues in coordination and cooperation with other trusted partners.
The ministers directed the TPF Working Groups to reconvene quarterly, either in person or virtually, and identify specific trade outcomes to ensure that trade relationship begins to reach its full potential. They also instructed senior officials to hold an inter-sessional TPF meeting by mid-2023 and agreed to reconvene the TPF at the ministerial level before the end of 2023.