Amid strain in trade ties and fights at the World Trade Organization (WTO), commerce minister Suresh Prabhu will leave for Washington DC on June 10, his first visit after the Trump administration slapped duties on Indian steel and aluminium.
The minister will convey India’s viewpoints on contentious issues, including duties on Indian metals, to US trade representative Robert E Lighthizer and others, and explore business opportunities, sources told FE.
Prabhu’s visit comes at a critical time when efforts to persuade the US to exempt India from the duty on steel and aluminium or view New Delhi’s export subsidies in proper context haven’t yet yielded results. Both the sides have dragged each other to the WTO in recent months: the US has lodged complaints against India’s export and farm subsidies, while India has raised objections to duties on Indian steel and aluminium and massive illegal subsidies in the renewable energy and agriculture sectors. While the much-feared US-China trade war is de-escalating, there is no sign of an abatement in the Indo-US trade tussles yet.
“Prabhu’s visit will lend more clarity as to where both the sides are heading. Maybe, it will break the ice,” said the source. The commerce minister will also talk about Indo-US cooperation in making civil and defence aircraft in India, the source added. Commerce secretary Rita Teaotia is expected to visit as well.
In the last meeting of senior trade officials of both the countries in New Delhi, the US is learnt to have sought better trade balance with India and removal of restrictions on pricing of medical equipment such as bioresorbable stents. To keep up pressure, the US side, led by its assistant trade representative Mark Linscott, didn’t commit on lifting the tariff on supplies of steel and aluminium, apart from suggesting that India’s concerns will be conveyed to the relevant authorities in Washington.
The US has announced plans to impose a duty of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imports from select countries, including India.
While China alone accounted for a massive $375 billion, or 46%, of the US goods trade deficit of $810 billion in 2017, India made up for just 2.8% and occupied the 9th spot in the list of the nations with which the Trump administration seeks to pursue a trade balance agenda.