Outcomes of the 2024 India-US Trade Policy Forum Meeting
The India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) recently concluded its 14th Ministerial-level meeting in New Delhi on January 12, 2024. Co-chaired by Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry for India, and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Forum plays a pivotal role in reinforcing the strength of bilateral trade ties between the two nations and fostering an overarching economic relationship.
At the end of the Forum, Goyal and Tai (their team referred henceforth as the ministers) released a Joint Statement. In it, the ministers highlighted the momentum witnessed in India-US bilateral trade in goods and services, expecting it to have surpassed US$200 billion in the calendar year 2023 despite global trade challenges.
Recognizing the yet untapped potential in their trade engagement, given the size of their economies, both parties expressed a shared desire to further intensify initiatives aiming to enhance and diversify bilateral trade.
Significant progress was reviewed concerning issues impacting the bilateral trade relationship since the previous TPF held in January 2023. The settlement of longstanding trade disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and concerns about market access were highlighted, stemming from the state visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States in June last year.
Moving forward, the ministers flagged key areas for enhanced cooperation, including critical minerals, customs and trade facilitation, supply chains, and trade in high-tech products. Both, India and the United States—within the TPF framework—are committed to developing a forward-looking roadmap to achieve economically meaningful outcomes in the flagged areas, laying the foundation for future joint initiatives.
Laboratory testing and conformity of assessment
Noteworthy outcomes were achieved in various sectors. A bilateral pathway for recognizing results from accredited conformity assessment bodies has been established, aiming to eliminate duplicate testing requirements whenever possible and reduce compliance costs for high-quality goods. This would utilize the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF) mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs).
Seafood trade and the TED device
Collaboration on the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) design, which has been developed with the technical support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was discussed, with field demonstrations scheduled for February 2024. The goal for the TED design is to minimize the impact of commercial shrimp trawl operations on sea turtle populations. Both sides are keen to see timely completion of the field demonstrations, necessary for the sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, and which will improve seafood trade between the two countries.
Medical device trade
Discussions covered the bilateral medical device trade, emphasizing the necessity of augmenting inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) in India to streamline trade processes. Both countries acknowledged ongoing dialogues regarding ensuring patient access to affordable medical devices, incorporating the Trade Margin Rationalization (TMR) approach. The collaborative effort aims to address challenges affecting the continuous trade in the sector, such as standards and pricing issues for medical devices like cardiac stents and knee implants.
Both India and the US agreed to combat the excessive reliance and lack of diversity in Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients within the global pharmaceutical supply chain, and the ministers welcomed the opportunity for joint efforts to derisk and diversify, with a specific focus on Key Starting Materials.
Other trade and market access issues
Discussions also covered issues related to technical regulations, public health, import requirements for IT hardware, restoration of India’s beneficiary status under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, and collaboration in the biofuels sector. The Ministers expressed commitment to ensuring transparent regulatory practices, eliminating forced labor in global supply chains, and addressing outstanding trade issues through the TPF.
Negotiations for an India-US social security pact
On Saturday, January 13, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai confirmed receiving information from India regarding the proposed social security agreement, emphasizing that there is a substantial amount of work yet to be undertaken on this matter. The social security totalization agreement emerged as a crucial request from the Indian side during this year’s Trade Policy Forum meeting. This agreement holds significant potential to boost services trade between the two countries and will offer valuable support to Indian IT professionals temporarily working in the United States. India had promptly submitted all the pertinent data on its social security schemes, as requested by the U.S. government, marking a crucial step towards initiating negotiations on the agreement.
Yes, the Indian government is in touch with our social security administration… We have received that information on the eve of the TPF… We have the information, and the ball is back in our court, but it’s just landed in our court. So, there is a lot more work to do [to facilitate India’s proposal on the social security pact]. – U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Tai speaking to media
Going forward: Next meetings scheduled in 2024
The 14th Ministerial-level meeting of the India-US TPF concluded with a directive for the TPF Working Groups to reconvene quarterly, with senior officials set to hold an in-person inter-sessional TPF meeting by mid-2024.
Another Ministerial-level meeting is planned before the end of 2024, demonstrating the continued commitment to strengthening the bilateral economic partnership and addressing outstanding trade issues bilaterally.
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