India and US are ‘nearer to a smaller’ trade deal than ever



The talks of a trade deal between India and the US have been ongoing since the time President Donald Trump had taken office.

There were even a lot of talks of signing a ‘smaller’ trade deal, since last February when Trump had visited India, and finally, there seems to be some progress in the news.

On Thursday, it was reported that both New Delhi and Washington are now “nearer” to a smaller trade deal than ever before as the US believes a free trade agreement (FTA) is possible even as India has walked out the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

This has been a long time coming, but both sides could not agree to a deal, owing to several differences over tariffs on a range of goods that are being traded. Since both the nations are looking towards some an economic revival, it is definitely seen as a welcome move.

“This is a certainly win-win proposition for both of us and our leadership had given direction to both sides to quickly wrap up a smaller deal and then go in for a bigger FTA. A lot of ground has been covered and perhaps we are nearer to the smaller deal than ever before… A larger perspective and a broader vision have to be put in here,” said Taranjit Sandhu, Indian ambassador to the US, at the India Global Week.

Sandhu was addressing a virtual session on ‘Partners in Revival: Time for Action’ moderated by Mukesh Aghi, president and CEO, US-India Strategic Partnership Forum.

“There are lots of areas, it is not just that only India has to send out a message of symbolism, I think this is a case of US too. This is a time to send out that message of balancing, of a win-win situation. Therefore, I hope both trade sides are able to finalize the smaller deal soon,” he added.

He also said it is “important to accommodate each other’s interest and to address issues of mutual concern” even as both sides explore new areas of cooperation.

Kenneth Juster, US ambassador to India, who was also addressing the session, said that while discussions between both the governments are on towards restoring the GSP, it is important that India also “open” for trade and manufacturing.

“India has made a clear decision not to participate in the regional agreement (RCEP) with the Chinese and other countries in Asia… In my view, the way to lock in some of the economic potential going forward is to a free trade agreement,” said Juster.

On PM Modi’s clarion call for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’, Juster said: “I hope this means building a more resilient and stronger local economy that can participate more ably in the global economy.”

He said as companies begin to have “second thoughts” about investing in China and even “pulling out” of China, India should gear up to become an attractive alternative investment destination.

“India should become a trading region and a hub to invest not just in India, but also globally,” he added.

Sandhu said during the COVID crisis, India and the US got closer with greater cooperation in the health sector.

During the peak of the crisis, India relaxed export norms in order to send huge shipments of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol to the US, a gesture that President Donald Trump said “will not be forgotten”.

“US and India have a history of collaborating in the production of medicines… We are collaborating on three vaccines for Covid-19,” he said.

Sindhu also added seven Indian private firms are collaborating with Gilead for the bulk production of Remdesivir, touted as the best therapeutic hope against COVID, which will be distributed to more than 126 countries.

Since it is now clear that COVID-19 isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, it is time to adapt to the current situation and prevent the plummet of stocks and the economy. It is important for governments to begin to start taking this as the new normal and keep the industries running.

If this trade deal goes through, it will be a breath of fresh air for all the industries involved, as there is still no clear description of what the ‘smaller’ trade deal involves.