Piyush Goyal rules out FTA with US, says Modi, Biden ‘thinking big’

In Washington, Goyal said the mini trade deal was “too mini” to merit any great efforts by India and the US.

New Delhi | Updated: 12 January, 2023 11:19 am IST
Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal speaking to reporters in Washington DC on Wednesday.

India and the United States have scrapped the previously talked about mini trade deal or free trade agreement (FTA) and are instead “thinking big” in terms of bilateral trade and commerce ties, Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal has said.

Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the India-US Trade Policy Forum meeting with US trade representative Katherine Tai in Washington DC on Wednesday, Goyal said that the two countries are now focusing on greater market access and ease of doing business, scaling up trade, investment and business.

He said that the proposed India-US mini trade deal was “too mini” to merit great efforts by both countries. “We have even forgotten most of those issues. We are looking at much, much bigger ambitions in our trade with the US,” he said.

On being asked if India and the US are looking to initiate an FTA, Goyal said, “While of course, we are doing free trade deals, we’ve concluded and entered into force free trade deals with Australia and the UAE. We are in active dialogue with the UK, Canada, Israel, and the EU. The United States is currently not looking at any free trade deals with any country whatsoever, as a matter of their political policy.”

“Rather than that, we are focusing on greater market access. We are focusing on ease of doing business between the two countries, you’re looking at, bilaterally, a much larger footprint between the two countries, for trade, investment and business. And therefore, the small mini-trade deals have lost relevance today,” the minister said.

Asked if India is looking for the restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which was revoked by the previous Donald Trump administration from India, Goyal said that he raised the issue with his US counterpart Tai

“It’s an issue, which is probably something that the Congress will have to take a call on. But it’s not something which has been high on our priority lists or something on which we spend a lot of time to discuss, it was discussed, but more in passing,” Goyal said.

He added, “I have placed on record our requests that GSP should be restored. But I can assure you the trade between the two countries continues to expand very rapidly. I do not think that GSP withdrawal has been to the detriment of our growing trade ties.”

GSP permits developing countries to export duty-free products to the United States.

According to observers, the trade and commerce relationship between India and the US has not seen any significant progress since President Joe Biden took office compared to the pace set by the two nations during the Trump administration.

There were talks about signing a trade deal during Trump’s visit to India in 2020. However, talks later collapsed and Goyal blamed the Trump administration for “shifting the goal post”.

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