India-US trade talks: Don’t miss the woods for the trees
Despite extensive talks between the two countries, and a considerable narrowing down of differences, no meeting ground has been found yet.
The vexed issue of a trade deal with the US is making “very good progress”, outgoing said Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The protracted negotiations on this issue has been proving to be a drag on the otherwise robust ties between the two countries.
India has made it clear to the US that it cannot compromise on the religious sentiments of its people – as in the case of animal extracts in US animal feed – or where the livelihoods and health of its poor are concerned. Late last year, it was announced that dairy products were off the table in the trade talks.
But despite extensive talks between the two sides, and a considerable narrowing down of differences, no meeting ground has been found yet. The differences are believed to persist on the prices of medical devices that India has capped, to keep them affordable for India’s poor, and on India’s insistence on enforcing data localisation, which US technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, MasterCard and others are opposing tooth and nail.
The discord over trade has not yet begun to threaten the robust bilateral strategic relationship – as the successful 2 + 2 dialogue last month showed – but if this spat continues and US actions lead to job losses and economic hardships in India, it could come in the way of fulfilling the potential of what many have described as the “defining partnership of the 21st century”.
That’s why it’s important for both countries to resolve this issue at the earliest – perhaps before Trump’s likely state visit to India next month.