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India, US agree to continue talks on visa issues

Seeking to further stimulate bilateral trade and investment, the Indo-US Trade Policy Forum, which met after a gap of four years, today agreed to continue their engagement on visa related issues and enhance market access for agriculture products.

These issues were discussed by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman.

The two sides also committed themselves to working with WTO members to ensure positive outcome at the WTO’s General Council, which will take up the trade facilitation pact and food stockpiling issue at its meeting in Geneva tomorrow.

“The two governments signalled their readiness to enhance bilateral trade and investment ties in a manner that promotes economic growth and job creation in both India and the US,” a joint statement issued after Trade Policy Forum meeting said.

The previous TPF meeting, the principle trade dialogue between the two countries, had taken place in 2010.

It has 5 focus groups: Agriculture, Investment, Services, Innovation and Creativity and Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers.

“The US took note of India’s interest in engaging on social security tantalisation, and agreed to review any information provided by India about developments in its social security regime.

“They decided to continue their engagement on visa issues, and the US took note of India`s interest in ensuring easier access for Indian professionals in the US,” it said.

Froman said in a press meet that India raised concerns about visa-related matters and “we took note of that”.

On intellectual property rights (IPR) issue, the USTR asked India to strengthen its laws.

“…it is important that there (should) be incentives for innovation. Without innovation, there (will) be no pipeline of drugs that might be made into generics in future,” he said.

The statement said Sitharaman and Froman acknowledged the paramount goal of ensuring the poorest populations in India and the US to have access to quality healthcare. The committed themselves to identifying ways in which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to quality health and affordable medicines.

On several occasions, India had raised concerns with the US authorities over high visa fees.

New Delhi also wants early conclusion of the Totalisation Agreement. Under this pact an expatriate in either country need not contribute to social security schemes of the host country.

India in the past had flagged concerns over with market access for agri products such as rice, mangoes, pomegranates and table grapes.

Indian agri exporters are facing problems in shipping some commodities as they face non-trade barriers in America.

The joint statement said both the countries agreed to explore the possibility of enhanced market access on identified agricultural products.

The US pharma sector had alleged that Indian IPR laws discriminate against US companies and violate global norms.

India has maintained that its rules are in compliance with WTO and other international legal norms.
At present, bilateral trade is around USD 100 billion. India has received about USD 12 billion in FDI from the US companies during April 2000 to March 2014.

The joint statement said that India and the US stressed on the importance of providing a transparent and predictable policy environment to help attract investments in manufacturing.

“In this regard, Minister Sitharaman and Ambassador Froman agreed to exchange information on stakeholder participation in the framing of trade and investment policies and procedures, and to discuss best practices.”

Both the sides committed to identifying ways which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to quality health and affordable medicines, it added.

On promoting investment in manufacturing, Sitharaman and Froman discussed efforts that each country is undertaking to promote a business friendly environment.

Affirming their shared goal of using trade and investment as a vehicle for stimulating economic growth and job creation, both the ministers agreed to deepen bilateral engagement to promote bilateral investment across sectors.

“In this regard, Sitharaman and Froman agreed to exchange information on stakeholder participation in the framing of trade and investment policies and procedures, and to discuss best practices,” it said.

Further, they highlighted their efforts to increase supply chain connectivity and implement single window clearance systems that will benefit all manufacturing activities.

They also agreed to exchange information on international standards and systems of acceptance of conformity assessment procedures with specific focus on understanding each governments’ procedures for testing, packaging, and labelling requirements.

Source: Economic Times

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