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Suresh Prabhu's US trip to focus on more trade, easier visas

Suresh Prabhu's US trip to focus on more trade, easier visas

NEW DELHI: Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu is expected to discuss trade, visa and investment issues with his US counterpart when he travels to Washington DC this week for an interaction with the Trump administration. 

Officials in the know said an informal discussion on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is also likely in which India will seek support for its agenda. The meeting will also discuss the US president’s daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump’s
upcoming India visit.


Under the new US administration, the decade-old strategic and commercial dialogue has been split. It was decided a few months ago that India and the US will hold 2+2 (foreign minister- and defence minister-level) strategic dialogues. 

It was also decided to revert to a standalone commerce minister dialogue, and Prabhu's visit is aimed at that. Prabhu’s US visit coincides with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's trip to India to discuss USSouth Asia strategy, highlighting India’s importance in Washington's policy for the region. 

In the trade policy forum, the commerce minister will raise the issue of high fee for H-1B visa and the need for totalisation agreement between the two countries. The agreement will allow temporary Indian workers in the US to repatriate their social security contributions when they leave the country. Former commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman too had pushed for an agreement on this. 

Prabhu will attend the India-US Trade Policy Forum and the third commercial dialogue from October 25 to 27, when he is expected to discuss a host of issues with Ambassador Robert E Lighthizer and his team. Prabhu will also hold talks with US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross on facilitating investment. 

Bilateral trade between India and US tops $100 billion, with the latter accounting for over 15% of India’s exports. In the first four months of the current fiscal, India exported goods worth more than $15 billion to the US. For the full year 2016-17, it was over $42 billion. 

he agenda for the trade policy forum would include early resolution of market access for agriculture commodities, trade in non-agri commodities, services and intellectual property. Under the commercial dialogue cooperation and collaboration in standards, ease of doing business, innovation and entrepreneurship would be taken up. “The focus will be on increased bilateral interaction and momentum in resolving trade concerns…Both sides will review the progress achieved on the issues agreed and work out the way forward for 2018,” a senior official said. 

Prabhu will also visit Cuba and Panama and meet their commerce ministers, besides interacting with the trade ministers of Suriname, Barbados, Dominican Republic and Haiti. India will explore whether “revolving credit lines could be an innovative way of boosting bilateral trade with these countries", an official said, adding that India will also discuss the possibility of an India-Carricom FTA to provide market access to products including agriculture items which pose no competition to India’s domestic agriculture sector. “Carricom also has market access to the USA through preferential trade arrangement. 

Thus, we would have another opening to the US market through the Caribbean,” the official said. Prabhu is also likely to meet Raul Castro, President of Cuba, to discuss ways of boosting bilateral trade, which has been modest so far, partly due to the distance and lack of effective shipping connections. 



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