India, US to start trade talks after Trump meets Modi at G-20

US President Donald Trump meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit on June 29, 2019. PHOTO: DPA

OSAKA (BLOOMBERG) - India and the United States plan to initiate ministerial discussions to sort out trade differences after President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (June 28) at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

The meeting - held after Mr Trump on Thursday called on India to withdraw an "unacceptable" increase in tariffs on US goods - sought to "clear the air and to set the agenda for discussions in resolving trade matters", Mr Vijay Gokhale, India's foreign secretary, told reporters in Osaka.

Mr Trump's tweet had referred to India's decision to impose tariffs on almost 30 American products in response to higher duties by the US and Trump's move on June 1 to end trade concessions on US$6.3 billion (S$8.5 billion) of Indian goods.

The dispute is among several hampering closer US-India ties just as Mr Trump's administration seeks Mr Modi's help in countering China in the region. The two countries have also sparred over India's desire to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system and oil purchases from Iran, although the S-400s were not discussed due to lack of time, Mr Gokhale said.

Mr Modi urged Mr Trump to look beyond recent actions and further trade talks are expected to begin soon, Mr Gokhale said, adding that ministers may meet after discussions by trade ministry officials. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were part of the discussions on Friday, Mr Gokhale said.

Iran, 5G

While Mr Modi reminded the US that although Iran supplied 11 per cent of India's energy, New Delhi had reduced Iranian oil imports despite the effect it had on the economy.

He mentioned India's concerns for peace in the region and the safety of its eight million citizens in the Gulf region, Mr Gokhale said.

Mr Modi also spoke about India's deployment of naval ships to protect the Indian flag vessels passing through the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, he said.

Mr Trump's meeting with Mr Modi came two days after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's India visit, where he highlighted US demands on India - including pressure to cut oil imports from Iran and Venezuela, to steer away from Huawei Technologies Co, and to cut links with North Korea's economy.

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