India stands firm in United States tariff talks

India stands firm in United States tariff talks

Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday that all decisions in the talks would aim to keep relations "positive".

The Indian delegation was led by Mr Sanjay Chadha, additional secretary, department of commerce, included senior officials from other ministries.

On Tuesday, ahead of the official-level trade talks, President Donald Trump had warned India that its high tariff regime was not acceptable to the US.

Trade talks between the United States and India, which resumed on Thursday after a brief lull, will focus on tariffs, data localisation and e-commerce rules as officials from both sides try to iron out differences in the areas over the two-day meeting, a government official has said.

Numerous toughest questions on agricultural commodities, e-commerce, and steel and aluminum, have been put off until Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal goes to Washington for talks with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer next month. "But Trump's tweet has shown their intention is to continue with a tough stance", another official said. "We have to keep in mind the bigger picture and within that big picture address all issues on the table", the MEA spokesperson said.

Trump and Modi met in Osaka on the sidelines of a G20 summit in June where they agreed to build ties and sort out thorny trade issues.

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In a recent meeting, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told trade ministry officials that "Trump is clearly preparing for a larger game, a larger opening", according to one of the officials aware of the discussions.

India-US trade was worth $142.1bn in 2018 with the US $24.2bn in deficit. Both the sides will hold comprehensive dialogue on July 12 in the commerce and industry ministry, the official added.

On Friday, both sides sat for formal discussions to find ways on the contentious issues but neither side said much in their press statements despite three hours of negotiations.

Amid rising trade tensions, India and United States officials met in New Delhi for the first time on Friday since the USA withdrew duty-free benefits to Indian exporters, while India imposed retaliatory tariffs on imports from US.

Goods that the USA would seek greater market access include medical devices, dairy products, information and communication technology and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

One concern among Indian policymakers is that the Trump administration may push for a free trade agreement with India that could dent India's competitiveness, lead to a flurry of imports and hurt Modi's "Make in India" plan. From June 16, India imposed high customs duties on 28 U.S. products in retaliation to customs duties imposed by America on certain steel and aluminium products. The US would urge India to ease restrictions on ecommerce and data localisation norms which impact American companies like MasterCard and Walmart.

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