Despite the pressure of a presidential visit, India and the US could not finalise a limited trade deal. It would have been better to resolve this nagging issue as it has influenced perceptions in the US about India’s attractiveness as a partner. The impression that India’s economy remains relatively closed, that it is protectionist, it denies market access and reciprocity to American companies has gained ground, even if it is a one-sided view. In the past, Trump has dubbed India a “tariff king”.
The US wants greater access to the Indian market for its agricultural and dairy products, seeks lowering of tariffs on certain IT products and opposes India’s price controls on medical devices. It is against any requirement for ‘local content’ in manufacturing projects. Another American gripe is India supposedly changing the legal framework for e-commerce. The US is keeping a close eye on the Data Protection Bill that is now before the select committee in the parliament. Data localisation and privacy issues threaten to become contentious issues down the line. The US side wanted India to share the text of the proposed bill before it was introduced in the parliament. They firmly rejected this as it would have amounted to compromising sovereignty. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) was also seeking commitments that go beyond India’s WTO commitments under General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). He was not willing to accept the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in India’s case.