India, US Trade Policy Forum meeting begins today

The minister-level meeting on October 20 will be led by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman from the Amercian side and commerce & industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman from India, an official statement said

The India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) started its two-day deliberations on Wednesday to thrash out issues of market access for goods and services as well as Intellectual Property Rights policy-related matters. Under this premier bilateral forum for discussion and resolution of trade and investment issues, technical-level discussions were held on Tuesday followed by a meeting at the level of the Indian commerce secretary and the deputy USTR scheduled for Wednesday.

The minister-level meeting on Thursday will be led by US Trade Representative Michael Froman from the Amercian side and Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from India, an official statement said.

Strong bilateral commercial ties between the US and India are reflected by the increased bilateral trade in goods and services of $109 billion and the highest-ever FDI inflows in 2015-16, the statement said. Both countries had set a goal to take the two-way trade to $500 billion in the years ahead. During the TPF, they are also likely to take up e-commerce related issues.

In August, the US had agreed to “look into” India’s concerns on the Obama administration’s move to hike fees for H1-B and L1 visas.

According to media reports, India Inc. had also raised the issue saying the move had hurt Indian IT firms, which are the main users of these work visas meant for foreign skilled workers. India also wanted the US to look into the delay in reaching an agreement on totalisation (or a social security pact).

From the Indian viewpoint, the absence of a totalisation pact is imposing a burden on the Indian software sector (who send professionals to the U.S. on projects) as they have to shell out over $1 billion per year to the US government towards social security, with no benefit or prospect of a refund.

Leading US companies had said they continued to fear the retrospective aspects of India’s taxation regime, despite the government’s assurances.

They had also raised concerns on the protection of IPR in India as well as concerns over inefficiencies in infrastructure and commerce in India.

The US government had red-flagged investor concerns about India’s “high” tariff walls, localisation requirements
as well as other “trade barriers” created by standards on testing, certification, and registration.