2020 may turn out to be a watershed year in Indo-U.S. relations.
Several announcements and developments on the bilateral trade front, plus a proposed visit by U.S. President Donald Trump in February, seem to indicate that might be the case.
The two countries have agreed to resolve amicably a dispute over American import duties on certain Indian steel products, Bloomberg reported. In this case, India’s claim was that the U.S. had not fully complied with previous World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings.
This particular case has a long and winding history dating back to 2012.
The WTO dispute resolution body had ruled against the U.S., saying the high duty imposed by it on certain hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from India was not in line with some of the provisions of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement).
Now, instead of taking the matter before the Appellate Body of the WTO’s dispute settlement since it had become dysfunctional — as a result of the U.S. blocking appointments of new judges, leaving the panel with just one member — the U.S. had agreed to resolve the matter amicably.
The case had taken many twists and turns after India dragged the U.S. to the WTO in 2012, alleging that Washington’s move to impose high duties on imports of certain Indian steel products were not proper. In December 2014, the WTO dispute panel ruled against the U.S. imposing high countervailing duties on imports of certain Indian steel products.
Later, the WTO’s Appellate Body, too, ruled the high duties imposed by the U.S. were inconsistent with various provisions of the SCM Agreement. In June 2017, India again went to the WTO, alleging America had not fully complied with those rulings, despite passage of a reasonable period of time.
But India’s Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal recently said India was in advanced stages to resolve some of the ongoing trade issues with Washington and was keen to expand ties further, including a free trade pact.
Now, with talk of Trump’s potential visit to India, a lot of movement is happening on the trade front.
According to a report in The Print, India and the U.S. have ironed out last-minute glitches to finalize a limited trade package that will address some immediate irritants on both sides.
Quoting sources, the report said a free trade agreement could be announced as part of a long-term plan between the US and India. Last June, India had hiked customs duties on as many as 28 US products, including almonds, pulses and walnuts, in response to higher tariffs imposed by Washington on Indian products like steel and aluminum.
India and the US are now likely to finalize a trade deal pegged above $10 billion (over Rs 71,200 crore) in February, according to a report in The Economic Times. As part of the Trump visit, the deal will be finalized when United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer visits New Delhi, the Economic Times reported.