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E-comm and local data storage rules likely to dominate India’s bilateral trade meeting with US


US-based behemoths Walmart and Amazon expressed their concerns over new e-commerce policy by the Indian government. They even lobbied US agencies to push their demand that involved flexibility in regulations and extension of the deadline.

The duo also wanted the US government to make e-commerce policy a bilateral trade issue between the two nations.

Acting on demand of local companies, US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross plans to take up this specific issue with his Indian counterpart, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu during his current visit. Ross is slated to participate in the Trade Winds Indo-Pacific Forum and Mission and would hold bilateral meeting with Prabhu.

It is interesting to note that presently both governments are also locking horns over tariff disputes, price caps which India has imposed on imported US medical devices and over rules banning companies from selling products via firms in which they have an equity interest.

India prohibiting companies from making deals with sellers to sell exclusively on their platforms, which could further affect investment plans of foreign firm in country’s fast growing e-commerce market, is another focus area.

A report published in ET cites an Indian source remarking that both sides are negotiating hard and expect a breakthrough as the stakes for both countries are significantly high. Political and security ties between India and the US have developed but trade has become a problem.

Indian officials said both sides are likely to emphasize strategic ties and try to manage trade differences.

Lately the US government has announced terminating preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States.

India is the world’s biggest beneficiary of this trade concession, called the generalised system of preferences (GSP), and its withdrawal would be the strongest punitive action against the country since the present US president took charge of office.

In turn, India has held off implementation of new tariffs on US goods after Washington refused to give it an exemption on higher steel duties. It wants the United States to review its decision on GSP and also hopes that it will defer its decision to withdraw trade privileges until India’s general elections are over on May 19, says the report.

Total US trade with India stood at $87.5 billion in 2018, with the deficit at $21.3 billion.

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