NEW DELHI: Following years of trust deficit on trade issues, the US on Tuesday agreed to ease rules for the export of mangoes and pomegranates in return for India allowing shipment of American cherries and alfalfa hay, while sending out a message that the two democracies are willing to remove hurdles for greater and faster strengthening of bilateral ties.
During the first Trade Policy Forum meeting in four years, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and US trade representative Katherine Tai identified 40 issues - 18 from the American side and 22 from India --- for time-bound resolution, amid indications that Indian shrimp and table grapes and American pork may be next in line for swifter shipments at ports instead of getting caught in a maze of quality and standards checks.
Currently, testing norms are such as dussehri and langda mangoes can't make it to the shelves of American retail chains but with the US indicating that India's oversight mechanism would be accepted, things could change.
"The clear message was that the relationship should not be transactional but should be based on trust and understanding," said a senior official. The meeting came in the backdrop of PM Narendra Modi and American president Joe Biden's decision to "develop an ambitious, shared vision for the future of the trade relationship".
Amid an intent to take the economic relationship to the next level, there was an under-current on extending the strategic ties at the level of Quad to an economic relationship as well, sources said, adding that Washington was responsive to providing preferential access for Indian goods under the Generalised System of Preferences, as and when the legislation is in place, a move that will help corner some of the space vacated by Chinese products.
The joint statement also sought to address the supply chain issues that have emerged in recent months as companies look to diversify their production bases and countries to cut their dependence on China. "The ministers acknowledged the significance of creating resilient and secure supply chains. In this context, they agreed that India and the US could, together with like-minded partners, take a leading role in developing secure supply chains in critical sectors of trade and technology," it said.
Besides, there was a mention of "regular sharing of perspectives on issues, including cyberspace, semiconductors, AI, 5G, 6G and future generation telecommunications technology", issues on which there is a general discomfort with Chinese companies. The other good news was the acknowledgment of the need to strengthen relations on health-related goods, as well as services, with the joint statement seeking to address India's concerns over delay in US regulatory inspection of Indian pharma facilities.
Even the contentious issue of price caps on medical devices such as stents seemed to have been dealt with positively as the US "acknowledged the work being done by the Indian side to strike a balance between access to medical devices at affordable rates and the availability of cutting edge medical technology".