New Delhi nudged Washington to restore the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status, which allows duty-free entry of some Indian goods in the US, during US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai’s visit over the weekend.
The US Trade Representative was in India from 12-14 January to co-chair the 14th Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting with her Indian counterpart commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal.
Under GSP, the US President selects beneficiary developing countries based on certain mandatory and discretionary factors, such as providing adequate market access and protecting intellectual property rights and respective worker rights.
“Tai agreed to appraise the US Congress about the Indian demand for reinstating GSP status, and a final decision will be taken by the Congress,” Ajay Sahai, director general and chief executive officer of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said.
India also sought a totalization agreement that provides social security benefits to Indian IT professionals traveling to the US for short periods. The government shared data on social security schemes such as Employee Provident Fund Scheme, National Provident Fund Scheme in support of the totalization agreement, which Tai highlighted during her visit.
Sahai said India has social security agreements or totalization agreements with 19 countries, including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, and Germany.
“We are hopeful that Washington will decide on additional data provided by the Indian government on social security schemes implemented in India,” he added.
During their meeting, Tai and Goyal acknowledged the role of professional services in catalyzing bilateral trade between the two countries, and agreed to continue discussions on promoting engagement.
Acknowledging that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors, and business visitors can contribute to enhancing bilateral trade, both countries agreed to continue talks on the issue.
Sahai said the US agreed to expedite visa processing for business professionals and agreed to look into mutual recognition of qualifications with India. “Once the US recognizes Indian qualifications, then the visa process for professionals will speed up,” Sahai said.
During his meeting with Tai, Goyal highlighted the challenges faced by business visitors due to long-winding visa procedures and requested the US to augment processing.
Tai and Goyal have directed five working groups to reconvene quarterly, either in person or virtually, and identify specific trade outcomes. An in-person inter-sessional Trade Policy Forum meeting is expected to be held mid-year, and a ministerial-level meeting may be held by the year-end.
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