India not negotiating comprehensive FTA with US currently: Govt to RS

Piyush Goyal, commerce and industry minister

The government on Friday said that currently, India is not negotiating a comprehensive free-trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

"No, Sir. Presently, India is not negotiating a comprehensive FTA with the US," Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

Both the countries are negotiating a trade package kind of a thing with a view to resolve trade irritants and push two-way commerce.

A US team is likely to visit India to finalise talks on the proposed trade package ahead of the visit of US President Donald Trump.

India is demanding exemption from high duties imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products, resumption of export benefits to certain domestic products under their Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), greater market access for its products from sectors including agriculture, automobile, automobile components and engineering.

On the other hand, the US wants greater market access for its farm and manufacturing products, dairy items and medical devices, and cut on import duties on some ICT products. The US has also raised concerns over high trade deficit with India.

In 2018-19, India's exports to the US stood at USD 52.4 billion, while imports were USD 35.5 billion. Trade deficit dipped from USD 21.3 billion in 2017-18 to USD 16.9 billion in 2018-19.

India received FDI of USD 3.13 billion from the US in 2018-19, higher than USD 2 billion in 2017-18.

Replying to a separate question, Goyal said India has challenged a ruling of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) dispute settlement panel, which held that certain provisions of the domestic export incentive initiatives are inconsistent with global trade norms.

However, due to lack of quorum in the Appellate Body of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, "there is no progress in this case".

India remains committed to resolving the crisis in the Appellate Body in close consultation with like-minded WTO members, however, the outcome of "our efforts" to resolve the crisis in the body cannot be anticipated at this stage, he said.

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