22:22 GMT12 August 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik):  After withdrawing from the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last November, India initiated talks with the US. Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and his US counterpart Robert Lighthizer also held talks.

    Uncertainty looms large over the US-India trade deal ahead of US President Donald Trump’s India visit on 24 and 25 February, according to sources in the Indian Commerce Ministry. Trade negotiations between the US and India are continuing, but India is not likely to rush the deal through, the sources revealed.

    Officials aware of the development maintained that the Indian side was in favour of a complete deal and not a limited one, even if it takes longer to negotiate. However, there has been no official communication yet from the commerce ministry about the ongoing backchannel negotiations.

    A commerce ministry official told Sputnik: “We will keep negotiating with the US till the trade deal is in favour of India. The Indian government is in favour of a complete trade deal rather than a limited one.”

    US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was expected to visit India ahead of Trump's visit to finalise the deal. However, the commerce ministry official confirmed that the US side has not yet indicated a date for Lighthizer's visit.  

    Recent developments, including US claims that India is a “developed country" and does not require a number of trade concessions and the Indian side imposing a 5 percent cess on medical imports, have the potential to put a deal on the backburner.

    By referring to India as a developed nation, the US seems to be nudging India to a compromise position on the General System of Preferences (GSP). The US withdrew India from the GSP in June last year, and the latter has been demanding a full restoration of the GSP ever since.

    Other issues on the table include US demands for further market access to India’s dairy and agricultural sectors. The Indian side appears to be getting ready for the long-haul. “We would like to discuss all issues on board thoroughly before an agreement is arrived at,” the commerce ministry official said.


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