India and the US on Friday discussed a range of issues pertaining to visa, critical minerals, restoration of export benefits under GSP, and ways to promote trade in pharma and marine goods.
The issues came up for discussions during the 14th Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting here. It was co-chaired by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal here.
According to a joint statement, the two ministers noted that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors, and business visitors between the countries contributes immensely to enhancing the bilateral economic and technological partnership.
"Minister Goyal highlighted challenges being faced by business visitors from India due to visa processing time periods and requested the US to augment processing," it said.
The two ministers also agreed that their governments will pursue enhanced engagement, leading to mutually beneficial outcomes in several areas, with a view to deepen the trade relationship for the benefit of working people.
"They identified certain areas, including critical minerals, customs and trade facilitation, supply chains, and trade in high tech products, in which the US and India will develop an ambitious and forward looking roadmap for enhanced cooperation in order to achieve economically meaningful outcomes," the statement said
The ministers committed to pursue these efforts with a view to establish the foundation to launch future joint initiatives.
It added that the bilateral trade in goods and services, which continued to rise and is likely to have surpassed USD 200 billion in 2023, despite a challenging global trade environment.
During the meeting, Goyal reiterated India's interest in restoration of its beneficiary status under the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
"Ambassador Tai noted that this could be considered, as warranted, in relation to the eligibility criteria determined by the US Congress," it said.
On agri trade, the ministers acknowledged the pending work to be completed for early finalisation of market access for certain agricultural products of interest to both sides.
"They also conveyed their interest in enhancing their ongoing dialogue on food and agricultural trade issues in 2024 and to continue working to address outstanding issues through the agriculture working groups, as well as the relevant sub-groups, utilising science and risk-based principles," it said.
It added that the two countries emphasised that bilateral cooperation on digital trade and services should support the growth of their dynamic economies, while also addressing shared challenges and providing tangible benefits for workers and small businesses.
"The ministers acknowledged the ongoing discussions on a social security totalisation agreement and receipt of additional information by the United States from India. They also encouraged further engagement to establish a stronger basis for a future agreement," it said.
They also discussed India's new Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA).
Both ministers expressed their desire to continue engaging as India begins to draft rules for implementing the DPDPA.
"The ministers acknowledged the discussions on telemedicine services and encouraged stakeholder engagement on both sides to create an enabling framework for future collaboration in this area," it said.
India and the US acknowledged the role of professional services in catalysing bilateral trade. between the two countries and noted that issues related to recognition of professional qualifications and experience can facilitate services trade.
"In this context, both sides agreed to continue discussions on promoting engagement in these sectors," it said, adding that the ministers reiterated their commitment towards policies that ensure transparent regulatory practices, including online accessibility to information regarding regulations and regulatory processes, and adequate time for public consultations.
Further, the Indian side conveyed India's interest in being recognised as a Trade Agreements Act-designated country by the US. "The ministers recognised the importance of eliminating forced labour in global supply chains to promote resilient and sustainable trade and committed to work together on issues pertaining to child and forced labour in global supply chains," the statement said.
The two countries, according to the statement, concluded the meeting by directing the five TPF Working Groups to reconvene quarterly, either in person or virtually, and identify specific trade outcomes to ensure that the trade relationship continues on its positive trajectory.
"They also instructed senior officials to hold an in-person inter-sessional TPF meeting by mid-2024 and plan to reconvene the TPF at the ministerial level before the end of 2024," it said.