India and US aim to expand farm trade, resolve market access issues

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai (right) met Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal in New Delhi, on Nov 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India and the United States agreed in New Delhi on Tuesday (Nov 23) to expand farm trade and relaunched their joint trade policy forum (TPF) to resolve differences on issues including market access, as US Trade Representative Katherine Tai ended a two-day visit.

The two countries agreed to speed up work for expanding trade in agricultural commodities including shipments of Indian mangoes and pomegranates to US markets and cherries and alfalfa hay for animal feed from the US to India, they said in a joint statement.

Chairing the meeting of the joint forum, convened after a gap of four years, Ms Tai and Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal directed their officials to intensify efforts to resolve issues and consider a ministerial meeting next year.

"The forum heralds a new beginning in India-US trade partnership," Mr Goyal said in a tweet after the meeting.

New Delhi and Washington have sparred over a range of issues including tariffs for over a year, hampering the prospects of concluding a bilateral trade package.

Tuesday's meeting followed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington in September when both leaders agreed to expand trade ties to strengthen relations.

The US agreed on Tuesday to look into India's demand for exporting grapes, while New Delhi would consider allowing imports of US pork and pork products, the statement said.

Ms Tai, accompanied in New Delhi by Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi, earlier raised issues of market access restrictions, high tariffs, unpredictable regulations and restricted digital trade between the two countries.

India has been resisting a US demand to lower tariffs, arguing that applied tariffs were way below the permissible limit under the WTO rules, while seeking more exports of goods and services.

Bilateral goods' trade between the two countries in the first nine months this year rose nearly 50 per cent from a year earlier as their economies reopened after restrictions due to the pandemic, and is set to surpass US$100 billion (S$137 billion) this year, the joint statement said.

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