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Tuesday 21 January 2020

US wants strategic partnership with India, but is unhappy about bilateral trade relations

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to give a clarity on the various aspects of American ties in South Asia, including India

Washington, DC: A White House official has said that trade is one aspect of India-US relationship that has the most friction, even as he said that the Trump Administration is looking for a free, fair and reciprocal commerce with India.

The comment from White House came, days after President Donald Trump publicly raised the issue of high import duty by India on motorcycles at least three times in a month and threatened a reciprocal duty on Indian imports.

“The commitment to the relationship is very strong on both sides. If you had to point to a part of the relationship where you have the most friction, it certainly would be the trade side,” a senior administration official told a group of reporters.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to give a clarity on the various aspects of American ties in South Asia, including India.

Insisting that the Trump Administration has been clear for a free, fair and reciprocal trade, the official said that there have been concerns raised about the trade deficit with India. But he quickly pointed that this deficit has actually come down slightly more recently, based largely on India’s imports of US energy.

“This administration is looking for a free, fair and reciprocal trade with India. And so is seeking to see some of those tariffs such as on a Harley Davidson motorcycles that are there. US is determined to find the opportunities to increase trade investment with India and does expect that there will be some sort of reciprocal dealings on the trade issues,” the official said.

The senior administration official noted that Indian motorcycles that are imported into the US don’t have any tariffs on them.

“And so the president has been clear that he’s looking for a fairly reciprocal trade with India,” the official said.

Responding to a series of question, the official said that the Trump Administration has been in constant talks with India on mutual business relations.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was in Washington DC this week met the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

At the same time, the official indicated that issues of commerce are unlikely to be part of the soon to be held two plus two dialogue between the two countries involving their respective foreign and defence ministers.

In the absence of the Secretary of State, the two-plus-two dialogue has now been delayed and is likely to be held later this year after Mike Pompeo is confirmed by the Senate.

“I think, it’s an ongoing discussion that we’re having on the trade issues. The two plus two is focused a great deal on a defence security cooperation, diplomatic political cooperation just by virtue of the Defense Minister and Defense Secretary and the External Affairs Minister and Secretary of State. The trade issues are more of an ongoing dialogue that we’re having with India,” the official said.

PTI

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