Trade talks between India, US to conclude soon: Nirmala Sitharaman

PTI

New York: Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman (L) speaks on 'Indian Economy: Challenges and Prospects' at Columbia University in New York, Tuesday, Oct.15, 2019. (PTI Photo)

New York: Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman (L) speaks on ‘Indian Economy: Challenges and Prospects’ at Columbia University in New York, Tuesday, Oct.15, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Trade negotiations between India and the US are going well and will conclude sooner than expected, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

Last month, India and the US failed to announce a limited trade deal in New York during the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, due to still prevailing differences over the package including access Washington has sought to Indian markets for medical devices, such as stents and knee implants, information and communications technology (ICT) products and dairy products with
the removal of price caps.

India is keen on a fair and reasonable trade deal in which its request for market access is secured while also addressing the trade deficit issue raised by the US.

“I think the trade talks would conclude sooner. The talks are going on very well. Yes, we couldn’t conclude it before the Prime Minister’s (Narendra Modi’s) visit (to the US) happened. But both sides are engaged with all commitment,” Sitharaman said here on Tuesday.

Sitharaman gave a lecture on ‘Indian Economy: Challenges and Prospects’, which was organised by the Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

During a question and answer session that followed, Sitharaman was asked about the trade talks between New Delhi and Washington.

Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with President Donald Trump, championing his ‘America First’ policy, complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were “no longer acceptable” to his country.

Minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are continuing their efforts to resolve some of our differences.

Sitharaman was also asked about Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee’s comments that the Indian economy “is doing very badly” and when the economy is going into a “tailspin” is the time when one should not worry about monetary stability but about demand.

She responded that the government is focused on boosting consumption.

She said steps have been taken to push liquidity through Non Banking Financial Companies and through the banks to reach the ground level.

In the budget presented in July, Sitharaman had announced Rs 100 lakh crore for the next five years for building public infrastructure.

The minister said stronger infrastructure would boost consumption.

She said the government had formed a task force which will help front-load a large part of this money for infrastructure.

On demonetisation, Sitharaman said there was every reason for it to have been implemented.

“Demonetisation was one of the very important steps taken in order to contain black money, together with the fact that many of the transactions of the Indian economy were not under any institutional radar. “So the best thing about demonetisation was that with one stroke we fulfilled one of our promises (to fight corruption and contain black money) and also simultaneously brought India to the digital sphere,” the minister said.

(PTI)