NEW DELHI -- Just a day ahead of crucial trade talks with India, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Monday that his country wants to “step up” trade dialogue with India. The two countries are set to hold trade talks on Tuesday in New Delhi.
"This pace of engagement is impressive, but shouldn't be surprising for what President (Barack) Obama declared the defining partnership of the 21st century," Reuters cited Froman as saying, in New Delhi. "Our task is to build on our mutual interests, with mutual respect, and deliver on the promise of that partnership," he reportedly added.
Trade talks between the two countries come just days after they announced that they had reached a breakthrough in resolving their differences on issues related to food security, which had been holding up the implementation of a global trade pact that had been agreed to at the World Trade Organization summit in Bali, Indonesia, last year.
India had sought assurances that its domestic food security program, which involves public stockholding of food, would not be affected by the rules of the world trade body. Typically, India’s food security program involves procuring food grains from local farmers at prices above market rates and stockpiling a portion of it to avert shortages. The U.S. has effectively agreed to extend so-called “peace clauses” indefinitely, so as to reach a truce with India on the matter.
“On the basis of this breakthrough with India, we now look forward to working with all WTO Members and with Director-General Roberto Azevedo to reach a consensus that enables full implementation of all elements of the landmark Bali Package, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement,” Froman had said on Nov. 13, after the India-U.S. agreement was announced.
“We supported the Bali Package but when subsequent developments belied that hope, India had no option but to seek a course correction. India, therefore, took the stand that till there was an assurance of our concerns being addressed, it would be difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement,” India’s commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said at the time in New Delhi.
Following this, on Friday, the two countries announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had accepted an invitation from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day function on Jan. 26 next year.
Last week, Indian media reported that the defense ministry had cleared a long-pending $2.5 billion deal to buy M777 guns from the U.S. The deal is however unlikely to be closed before the next financial year.