“I believe we have a quick trade deal which has some of the pending matters built up over the last couple of years, which we need to get out of the way quickly. We are almost there,” Goyal said at the virtual US-India Business Council’s India Ideas Summit.
“A couple of calls and we will sort it out,” Goyal said, emphasising that India and the US are natural partners with shared values and mutual trust.
The two sides have been trying to thrash out a trade package with limited scope with the long-term aim of an FTA since last year amid a plethora of unresolved trade issues.
The issue recently came up an informal telephonic discussion between Goyal and US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross last week.
“We can do an early harvest in terms of 50-100 products and services,” he said at the virtual event.
However, with respect to the long term FTA, the minister said that requires both sides to sit at the negotiating table but whether that happens before or after the US’ Presidential elections in November remains to be seen.
“FTA may take longer to conclude… We can build institutional cooperation between the two nations,” he said.
The US is keen on a deal ahead of its presidential elections in November and had indicated that an initial deal could include restoration of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to India and market access for each other’s agricultural products with a long-term view of a broader trade agreement.
New Delhi has demanded exemption from high duties (imposed by the US) on certain steel and aluminium products and market access for its farm products, while the US has sought market access for its farm and manufacturing and products, medical devices, and lower duties for certain ICT products.
The US had also sought data-related relaxations, including in the ecommerce policy that India is working on.
The latest draft of the policy says companies that store or mirror Indian users’ data overseas will be subject to periodic audits and must also make available any data the government seeks within 72 hours, or pay a penalty.
The US remained India’s top trading partner for the second consecutive year in 2019-20 with bilateral trade at $88.75 billion, up from $87.96 billion in FY19.
The two, at different fora, have been recently been discussing a totalisation agreement and the US’ decision to probe digital services tax of ten countries including India.
Ease of trade, business
Goyal said the government is working towards a genuine single-window which can go across central government, state and even local governments but termed it a “challenging assignment in the last six years”.
“One of the first things on the pilot is a GIS (Geographic Information System) based land buying service. We will identify land for setting up industries through GIS-based tool,” Goyal said.
Six states have been identified with “thousands of hectares of land” and Google Earth view of those land parcels would be available to industry.
Noting that every investor, in the long run, is looking for credible ways of doing business when he engages with a country, and industry and business want to be given freedom to operate, Goyal said India is giving all these enablers to make businesses prosperous and untangle the levels of business approvals.
“Aatmanirbhar Bharat programme wishes to prepare India to work with world on equal terms…We want to offer India as a reliable business partner,” he said.
On the issue of lives versus livelihood during the ongoing pandemic, Goyal said that India dealt with it in three stages: First, focusing on