India to brief new US team at the earliest: Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi: Seeking greater economic cooperation with the US, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said India would look at the “earliest opportunity” to brief the new administration about all outstanding issues which are of concern to the domestic industry.

“I would look at the earliest opportunity for our officials to talk with the new team and clearly brief them on all the outstanding issues which are of concern for India,” Sitharaman told PTI. US President-elect Donald Trump would assume charge on January 20.

Issues which India has repeatedly raised with the US include high visa fees in America, increase in customs cooperation, greater market access for domestic goods and early conclusion of social security agreement.

Asked about Trump’s statement that he would scrap the mega trade deal Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the minister said, “We have to wait as in what first step he takes on trade and with regard to TPP.” She had earlier said that TPP would certainly have an impact on India’s exports in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles and chemicals.

The TPP is a trade agreement among 12 countries — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. The agreement has been concluded but is not yet ratified for implementation by the participating countries. India too is negotiating a similar mega deal – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 15 countries.

The 16-member RCEP bloc comprises 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six free trade agreement partners — India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

To a question on the view of some RCEP members who want to include certain provisions of TPP in the trade pact, Sitharaman said, “I think that RCEP would go on with vigour and we will have to wait and see what decision the new US government takes on TPP.” Trade ministers of RCEP group met recently in the Philippines.

“The meeting went very well. We have shifted from the three-tier to single-tier (tax structure) and here in the Philippines, the discussions went further to say what would you (RCEP members) offer if you are moving away from three- tier and you are going to only one. “…We want different staging periods (for phasing out tariffs) and that this staggering will definitely be helpful and also that we want differential treatment for some countries,” she added.