India-US deal held off, both countries to work on market access issues: Goyal

Piyush Goyal

Union Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday that India will look at working with the US on market access issues to promote bilateral trade as Washington has expressed that it is not looking for a new trade agreement as of now.

Resolving issues like non-tariff barriers, entering mutual recognition agreements and aligning on higher quality international standards, will help boost trade between the two countries, the minister said.

“The US as of now has kind of indicated that they are not looking for new trade agreements, but we look at working with them for more market access issues on both the sides and I think that would also be a big relief and a big opportunity opener for our export sector.”

~Piyush Goyal, Union Commerce and Industry Minister

With Australia having shown significant interest for an early harvest pact with India, Mr Goyal called for exporters to share areas of their interest with the ministry. An early harvest with countries like Australia will help India engage with others on similar lines, Goyal said while addressing the Export Promotion Council leaders in Mumbai.

Mr. Goyal also urged exporters to appreciate that FTAs cannot be ‘one-way traffic’.

“We are working with line ministries on areas where we can quickly close the deal in terms of an early harvest if possible, so instead of trying to address 11,000 lines (or products), we can look at areas of their immediate interest and our immediate interest,” Goyal said.

On the comprehensive trade pact with the European Union, he said discussions have started as the EU is a 27-nation bloc, an agreement with them is a much longer process. “We will work very hard to speed it up,” he added.

On the proposed free trade pact with the UK, the minister said it is progressing well as both the teams are in talks.

While talking about how the ministry is looking at allowing an interactive approach this time, the minister assured the industry that India will not allow the “same mistakes” that were made in the past FTAs.

“We are engaging with all of you and industry to ensure that FTAs are fairly and equitably crafted, bringing in more elements of reciprocity. But FTA cannot be a one way traffic. We also have to open our markets to others if we are wanting a larger pie in their markets, and therefore my appeal and request to all is to also identify areas where we have the confidence that we can withstand competition,” Mr Goyal said.

He expressed hope for “an early win” with Australia. India has also started talks for a pact with Bangladesh.

“Our effort is to ensure that we focus on countries where we have significant potential and more with the developed world where we can compete better and where market size is of considerable value,” the minister said.

He also urged export promotion councils to study FTAs and see whether there are “hidden” opportunities in them as it will help India set significantly higher export targets for 2022-23.

He informed that exports are faring well and it has increased by 55 per cent to USD 15 billion during the first two weeks of August.

On Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) scheme, he said steel, pharma, and chemicals sectors are not covered due to a lack of adequate budget.

“But we have an open mind to consider concerns and rectify mistakes that might have crept in if anyone feels it is detrimental to their industry,” he added.

He also informed the exporters that the ministry is setting up two separate divisions which will focus entirely on the services sector.

To ensure that SEEPZ can become a role model of truly world class export promotion area, Mr Goyal revealed that a policy would be announced for Santacruz Electronics Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ). In addition to it, INR 50 crore would be used to set up a common service centre there and roughly INR 200 crore for refurbishing or rebuilding.

While responding to a point regarding the announcement of ecommerce policy for the sector, Mr Goyal said it is at an advanced stage and they will finalise it shortly with the Finance ministry.

The minister asked the export community to also target USD 2 trillion exports by the year 2030, comprising USD 1 trillion merchandise exports and USD 1 trillion services exports.

While talking about the FTAs currently on the government’s priority list, which also includes Israel, Mr Goyal said, “Australia is first on the list, UK, then the UAE, and if the UAE happens, the pact with GCC will also be expedited. We have already started the dialogue with the UAE and one more country from the Middle East”.

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