End of hope for India-US trade deal as Biden administration shows little interest

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Union Minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference, in New Delhi on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

India is in “positive momentum” with respect to signing trade deals with the UK, Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, the EU and Gulf Cooperation Council nations

Our Bureau
New Delhi   

The hopes of an India-US trade pact are off the table for now, with the Joe Biden administration conveying to India that it is not interested in a free trade agreement. The US has indicated that it is not considering a new trade agreement with India, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday. India, he said, would look at working with the US on market access issues to promote bilateral trade. India has had extensive discussions with the US on a limited trade deal, but it didn’t go through.

But, the minister said, India is in “positive momentum” with respect to signing trade deals with the UK, Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, the European Union (EU), and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. “UK is progressing well. Teams are talking to each other. Line ministries are identifying areas in which we can quickly close the deal in terms of early harvest, if possible. Instead of trying to address 11,000 (tariff) lines, we can look at their and our areas of interest and close an early harvest agreement and (then) negotiate on the rest of the agreement,” Goyal said while addressing export promotion councils.

Similarly, Australia has shown the “highest level of engagement” and significant interest to do an early harvest agreement, he said. An early harvest deal is a precursor to a free trade agreement (FTA), in which trading partners reduce tariff barriers on limited goods to promote trade.

Finalizing a trade deal between India and the EU may not be a smooth ride, considering there are 27 nations in the trade bloc and talks have restarted after a gap of eight years. “We will work very hard to speed it up,” Goyal said. Considering the past experiences, India has revamped its strategy towards inking trade deals and will not allow the “same mistakes” of the past.

But a day after Piyush Goyal said hopes of an India-US trade pact are off the table for now, US Ambassador to India Atul Keshap spoke to the Indian minister for over two hours, discussing trade between the two countries. While Keshap tweeted about the meeting, there were no immediate comments from the commerce ministry over the discussions that happened on Friday.

“I had a very spirited exchange of views with Commerce Minister @PiyushGoyal about how #USIndia trade can and should attain the $500 billion vision set by @Potus . Across our 2+ hour discussion we agreed that our great democracies should work more closely to advance our mutual prosperity,” Keshap said.

According to the data of the commerce ministry, in 2020-21, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at $80.5 billion as compared to $88.9 billion in 2019-20.

The minister also said that had it not been for the outbreak of the pandemic and elections in Canada, a trade agreement with the country would have been at a more advanced stage.


Indian firms lose top spots in global ranking

Reliance Industries has emerged as the most valued Indian company in a global list of top-500 non-state-run companies, but saw its ranking slipping by three points. Ranking of many others Indian companies, including Tata Consultancy Services, HDFC Bank, HDFC and Bharti Airtel, declined compared with last year on the Hurun Global 500 list.

In all, 12 Indian companies made it to the list of the top-500 valued companies as against 11 in the year-ago period.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries’ valuation increased 11 per cent to $188 billion but ranking slipped by three places to 57 in the rankings which use the valuation on July 15 as the cut-off.

TCS slipped one position to be the 74th most valued company in the world with a valuation of $164 billion, HDFC Bank was 19 positions down at 124th with a $113 billion valuation while its parent HDFC was down 52 places at 301st despite a 1 per cent increase in valuation to $56.7 billion.

Kotak Mahindra Bank’s valuation declined 8 per cent to $46.6 billion, which led to a fall of 96 places on the list to 380th rank, while its larger rival ICICI Bank saw its valuation rise 36 per cent to $62 billion which resulted in its global ranking improving 48 places to 268th, as per the list.

There were three new entrants from the country in the list, including Wipro (ranked 457th), Asian Paints (477th) and HCL Technologies (498th).

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