NEW DELHI: The US is trying to negotiate a limited trade deal with India, the Indian and US officials said on Thursday. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who is here to hold talks on bilateral trade hiccups with his counterpart Piyush Goyal, said at the India Economic Summit that India also has to balance the need of protecting its small retailers with the need to open up to global e-commerce firms.“Amazon and other US retailers did not get to become the world’s biggest companies due to any evil reason. They have become what they are today due to efficiency. So, India has to do the balancing act and decide how they can do their business there,” Ross said.
However, Goyal, speaking at the same forum made it clear that as of now “there is no change in India’s stance on e-commerce. Small retail is a sensitive subject, so India has restricted FDI in multibrand retail at 49 per cent.” US retail giants like Walmart and Amazon have been asking for the FDI cap to be lifted and for more clarity in e-commerce rules. India’s small traders have been lobbying against the huge discounts given by e-tailers.
Top commerce ministry officials said that a preliminary trade deal has been “almost” hammered out between the US and Indian sides. This will involve a trade-off between the US restoring GSP benefits for Indian exports; India opening up to imports from the US, including medical devices and agricultural goods; and reduction of tariff on high-value information technology imports.
Officials said that negotiations were still on for farm product import rules, tariff structures, and India’s demands for relaxations in trade in generic drugs. “There are some sticking points that will be smoothened over soon,” said an official.
The US had earlier this year withdrawn preferential tariff treatment to more than 2,000 kinds of products worth some $6 billion that India was exporting to America, complaining of unfair trade practices by India including higher duties by the country, among other issues. India had, in a tit-for-tat move, also raised duties on some US products, including several farm products.