India, US looking at an exclusive trade partnership: Shringla

PTI, Jan 8, 2020, 4:11 PM IST

Washington: India and the US are looking for an exclusive partnership that can give companies of both the nations preferential market access, India’s outgoing Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said.

Shringla made the comments during his farewell reception on Tuesday organised by US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum or USISPF that was attended by members of the corporate world and representatives from the US Government.

What we are really looking for is to provide the basis for an exclusive partnership in trade between our two countries that can give US companies preferential market access to India and Indian companies the preferential market access to the United States, Shringla said.

The outgoing Ambassador, who would take up his new assignment as India’s next foreign secretary later this month, said the two countries have been successful in bridging gaps through several rounds of trade talks.

We have had several rounds of talks between our Minister of Commerce and Industry and the US Trade Representatives. We have had several rounds of talks between the senior officials and both sides. We have been successful in bridging many of the gaps, he said.

Shringla was referring to the recent series of talks between the two countries on a trade package, which is expected to pave the way for a larger bilateral trade deal.

The trade deal was first announced by US President Donald Trump when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Trump on September 24 said his country will soon have a trade deal with India to boost economic ties between the two nations.

Shringla said this is a continuous process of engagement.

It’s not a one-off thing, he said, adding that the bilateral trade deal that would give preferential treatment to the companies of one country into the other would result in an exponential growth of trade between India and the US.

If we were to seek concessions on an MFN (most favoured nation) basis, then it would like to all countries, that would mean that many of gains that you expect may not necessarily come your way, he said.

But given the fact that we have a strategic partner, given the fact that the two countries share common ideologies, values and principles; it’s natural that we should seek mutuality in terms of trade and trading arrangements that would be in the best interest of all of us here, Shringla said.

And if we are able to provide those conditions, and I am sure both sides would work together in reaching those, then I think we would see, not the 10-eight per cent increase that we see; you will see an exponential increase in trade and economic ties, Shringla said.

So, we are certainly working with that objective, he said.

In 2019, the bilateral trade increased from USD142 billion to USD160 billion, he said.

USISPF President Mukesh Aghi said that the one-year tenure of Shringla as India’s Ambassador to the US has been result-oriented and he has been instrumental in taking the relationship to a new level.

He has been extremely instrumental, not only in connecting with the business community, but also on the Hill side, on the executive side, but more importantly, he has gone out to the diaspora and met also the business leaders across the United States, Aghi said.

Christopher Wilson, who serves as Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia, expressed appreciation for the tremendous partnership the US has had with India during his tenure here.

I think the Ambassador’s work has been instrumental in making it possible for us to turn the corner into a constructive dialogue on trade and investment issues in the relationship, he said.

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