New Delhi: The United States secretary of state, Michael R Pompeo will visit India on 25-27 June. This will be the first high-level engagement with the US after the elections in India.
During his visit, he will hold talks with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and call on other dignitaries in the Government of India. Secretary Pompeo’s visit will be an important opportunity for both sides to explore ways to further strengthen the India-US Strategic Partnership, and continue the high-level engagement on matters of mutual interest including bilateral, regional, and global issues.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We look upon the visit as an important opportunity for both sides to further strengthen strategic partnership and continue high-level engagement on matters of mutual interest.”
‘Incredibly important’ ties with India
According to media reports, ahead of his India visit, Pompeo has underscored the Trump administration’s strong commitment to work closely with New Delhi to advance the bilateral strategic and economic partnership.
Earlier, Pompeo said his upcoming visit to New Delhi will be focused on advancing United State’s “incredibly important” ties with India which is a significant part of President Donald Trump’s strategy to advance the shared goal of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, where China is flexing its muscles.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.
United States and India trade issues
According to Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, US imposed additional tariff of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminium respectively on a global basis. While India’s steel export in the affected lines to the US declined by 35% during the FY 2018-19 compared to FY 2017-18, aluminium export in the affected lines have increased by 14% during the same period. India has been engaged with US on this issue, as part of the ongoing bilateral trade dialogue.
Impact of US decision to end preferential terms
According to Goyal, some developed countries including the European Union provide unilateral tariff preferences on exports from developing countries/least developing country under their Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme.
The US has terminated preferential tariff benefits being granted to India under its Generalized System of Preferences scheme from 5 June. India exported goods worth of USD 6.3 billion (as per USTR data) to the US under the GSP programme during the calendar year 2018, which was 12.1% of India’s total export to the US in that year.
The total duty concessions accruing on account of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) were USD 240 million in 2018 which was about 3.8 per cent of the value of India’s exports to the US availing GSP benefits in 2018. Issues related to dairy products and medical devices were part of the GSP review instituted by the US, which led to the above outcome. These concessions will no longer be available.
The impact will vary across products depending on the individual product concessions constituting the average tariff concession of 3.8% of the value of India’s export to the US availing GSP benefits, and other factors specific to each product. Indian industry is competitive in its export products and we do not foresee a significant impact on our foreign trade.
Trade-related issues are a part of an ongoing economic relationship and will continue to be discussed and addressed as a part of the regular bilateral trade engagement between India the US.
India has been the single biggest beneficiary of the decades-old US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, allowing the country to export USD 5.7 billion worth of duty-free goods in 2017, according to figures from US Congress.
Assurance to India on H1B visa cap?
Media reports said that Pompeo will assure the Indian leadership during his visit to India that the Trump administration has no plans to impose a cap on issuing the highly sought-after H-1B visas that are forcing foreign companies to store data locally.
The H-1B visa, popular among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Almond tariff issue likely with Modi
India has announced a hike in customs duties on as many as 28 US products, including almond, apple, pulses and walnut, in response to higher tariffs imposed by Washington on Indian products like steel and aluminium.
During Pompeo’s visit, the issue of increased tariff on almonds might be taken up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. California’s largest agricultural export is almonds. US farmers export over USD 650 million worth of almonds to India annually.