India-USA Trade Policy Forum Meet

IAS Prelims 2023

Minister of Commerce and Industry of India Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman met in Delhi, for the tenth ministerial-level meeting of the India and United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF).

The Ministers agreed that the TPF has greatly strengthened U.S. – India engagement on bilateral trade and has increased trade and enhanced the overall economic relationship.

In addition to the High Level Working Group on Intellectual Property and the Manufacturing Dialogue that Prime Minister Modi and President Obama launched under the TPF, the Forum has gained momentum with regular Ministerial meetings in 2014, 2015 and 2016, supported by inter-ministerial work of established working groups on agriculture, trade in services and trade in goods, promoting investment in manufacturing, and intellectual property.

During this time period the Ministers acknowledged that India issued a National Intellectual Property Policy, liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) in various sectors, and reduced customs processing time, and that the United States ratified the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and advanced implementation of its single window.

Minister Sitharaman and Ambassador Froman discussed and exchanged views on a range of trade and investment issues, in particular, (i) Agriculture, (ii) Trade in Services and Trade in Goods, (iii)Promoting Investment in Manufacturing, and (iv) Intellectual Property.

The Minister and the U.S. Trade Representative also discussed the status of Indian and U.S. trade agreements with other countries and ways to ensure that bilateral trade and investment between India and the United States can continue to grow.

Both countries noted the importance attached to the TPF by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama, and its potential to increase bilateral trade and investment in a manner that supports economic growth, development, and job creation.

Agriculture

India and the United States acknowledged the benefits to Indian and U.S. farmers and agri-businesses that could accrue from increased bilateral engagement. Both countries agreed to continue working to facilitate bilateral trade in food and agricultural products and committed to holding technical dialogues on animal health, plant health, and food issues during 2017. India and the United States reviewed the results of the technical dialogues that took place in 2016.

Both countries recognize the need to establish science- and risk-based regulations and procedures that are based on international standards and guidelines set by CODEX Alimentarius, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), and agreed to address this important topic in technical dialogues and other forums.

Both countries also agreed to share best practices between their Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Enquiry points. The United States acknowledged India’s suggestion to work towards conformity based assessment system and mutual recognition systems for food products to facilitate exports.

Both sides welcomed India’s increased shipments of mangoes and pomegranates to the United States in 2016.The United States agreed to a timely review of the information submitted by export of grapes from India. Subsequent to the receipt of additional information from the United States, India agreed for a timely review of the request for export of U.S. cherries and alfalfa hay.

The United States also agreed to further collaboration to facilitate Indian rice and honey exports. India acknowledged the receipt of the U.S. proposal on Certificate for Pork Exports to India and Form 9060-5 recently submitted and agreed for a quick examination of the request. Discussion of mandatory package size requirements for pre-packaged foods for some items in India will continue in 2017.

The United States and India discussed regulation relating to end-use information for boric acid, imported and domestic, used for non-insecticidal purposes. Both sides agreed to discuss U.S. concerns regarding market access for dairy products. U.S. concerns on GM and licensing issues were noted by India.

Trade in Services and Trade in Goods

Minister Sitharaman and Ambassador Froman highlighted the important role of the services sector in India and the United States, and the significant potential for increasing bilateral services trade and investment.

The importance of e-commerce, retail and direct selling in facilitating trade in goods was acknowledged by both sides. India noted that 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) is now permitted in the marketplace model of e-commerce as well as in the distribution of food products produced in India, including through e-commerce.

To ensure that e-commerce companies can take full advantage of this market opening, India noted the continuous efforts for facilitating investment in e-commerce. Ambassador Froman welcomed the publication of the “Advisory to State Governments/Union Territories on Model Guidelines on Direct Selling”.

The United States encouraged India to consider relaxing local sourcing requirements in single brand retail trade. India mentioned recent FDI reforms providing relaxation in local sourcing norms in specific cases.

Both countries acknowledged the successful organisation of the India-US Workshop on Traditional Medicine in March, 2016. Ongoing dialogue and cooperation in the field of Traditional Medicine was noted. Both countries took note of the progress towards signing of an MoU between the Department of AYUSH and the Department of Health and Human Services on collaboration in various aspects of traditional medicine including regulatory and capacity building.

The United States and India also decided to continue their engagement on visa issues, and their shared resolve to facilitate the movement of professionals, experts, and scientific personnel in to the respective countries. The two countries acknowledged the ongoing discussions on totalisation and resolved to continue their engagement on the elements required in both countries in order to pursue a bilateral Totalisation Agreement.

On the issue of ownership and control in the insurance sector India’s policy objective of retaining the ownership with Indian companies was explained. On the Insurance Regulation and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) exposure draft on public listing in the insurance sector, India invited the United States to offer comments on the draft guidelines relating to public listing.

Both countries noted India’s focus on expanding higher education and training goals contained in Prime Minister Modi’s Skill India campaign and the initiative that the Skill India Mission has done to promote cooperation with foreign community colleges. They welcomed recent plans to permit greater collaboration with foreign educational institutions.

Both countries also agreed to further the Digital Agenda of the two sides as adopted in the India – US Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Working Group held on 27th September, 2016 in New Delhi.

India and the United States praised the Trade Facilitation Workshop convened during October 17-18, 2016 in Delhi, welcoming the cooperation between industry and the two governments in exchanging best practices and advancing efforts to achieve full implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Intellectual Property

Minister Sitharaman and Ambassador Froman welcomed the enhanced engagement on intellectual property rights (IPR) under the High Level Working Group on Intellectual Property, and reaffirmed their commitment to use this dialogue to continue to make concrete progress on IPR issues. They praised the engagement on intellectual property (IP) and reviewed the results of the dialogues on copyrights, trade secrets, patents, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), standard essential patents and IP policies that took place in 2016.

Both countries emphasized the role of robust and balanced IPR protection in fostering creativity, promoting innovation, and attracting investment, taking into account the interests of all stakeholders, including the public.

Ambassador Froman welcomed India’s on-going efforts to reduce pendency and strengthen the IP regime in India through its National IPR Policy and other measures like increasing technical manpower and streamlining procedures.

Recognizing the shared interest of the most robust entertainment industries in the world to promote and protect their artistic and creative content, both countries praised the intensified cooperation on copyright in 2016, including the workshop on copyright policies and implementation held in Washington in April and agreed to continue deeper engagement on copyrights, including holding a follow-on workshop in India in 2017.

The United States highlighted the May 2016 ratification of the Defend Trade Secrets Act in the United States, which, along with the Economic Espionage Act, provide federal causes of action for both civil and criminal enforcement against trade secrets misappropriation. India noted that it protects trade secrets through a common law approach.

A training module for judicial academies on trade secrets may also be considered. A further study on various legal approaches to protection of trade secrets will also be undertaken by India.

With respect to the patent regime, both sides affirmed the importance of transparency, predictability, speed, clarity and streamlining of procedures and will continue to have discussions and share best practices to promote these goals.

Minister Sitharaman appreciated the United States for the use of the Indian Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in patent search examination. Both sides agreed to continue cooperation on use of TKDL.

Promoting Investment in Manufacturing

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to exchange information on standards, Conformity Assessment procedures and the Common Criteria Recognition Arrangement (CCRA) in the electronics sector.

Both sides agreed that creating a transparent, predictable and open business environment that reduces administrative burden and protects innovation is essential for attracting investment, promoting manufacturing activity, and providing the confidence necessary for businesses to bring new technologies across borders. They emphasized their commitment to facilitate efforts to exchange best practices among industry and government.

Conclusion:

Ambassador Froman thanked Minister Sitharaman for hosting the tenth round of the TPF in Delhi. They proposed to convene the eleventh round of the TPF in the United States in 2017.