India, US to hold talks in May to boost trade ties

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India and the U.S. are slated to hold trade talks in May to identify opportunities in sectors such as infrastructure, digital technologies and smart cities even as commercial ties have soured by the recent visa and intellectual property (IP) issues.

Government and industry representatives from both the nations will hold talks during the ‘Annual West Coast Summit’ in Menlo Park, California on May 8. The discussions apart from food processing and supply chain logistics will focus on financial services, clean energy, healthcare and manufacturing from a technology partnership perspective.

During the mega trade expo called ‘Glorious India’ in New Jersey on May 27-28 the focus of the talks will shift to garments, gems and jewellery, travel & tourism and real estate.

‘Glorious India’

About 400 companies from India will take part in ‘Glorious India’ backed by the Indian Commerce and Industry Ministry (leading the ‘Make in India programme) and Tourism Ministry (spearheading the ‘Incredible India’ initiative). India-US trade in goods and services had risen to around $115 billion in 2016 from $109 billion in 2015, according to U.S. government data, and the aim is to raise this to $500 billion soon.

The U.S. Presidential Executive Order on ‘Buy American and Hire American’ on April 18 had said the H-1B visa (temporary work visa for non-immigrants) programme will soon be ‘reformed’ to ensure that the visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries, a move that may hit the Indian technology sector.

This indication of visa curbs came close on the heels of the U.S. government on March 3 “temporarily suspending premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including cap-exempt petitions, for up to six months.” Also, much to India’s chagrin, the 2017 “Special 301” Report on trade and intellectual property (IP) issues released by the U.S. government in April had said, “India remains on the ‘Priority Watch List’ this year for lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IP framework…”

Notwithstanding these hurdles, there will be several high-level India-U.S. interactions in May. As per the industry body U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), its members will on May 3 interact with the Indian Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari on opportunities for U.S.-India supply chain and infrastructure collaboration.

During that discussion on the sidelines of the ‘India Integrated Transport & Logistics Summit 2017’ (learnt to be a ‘precursor to the formation of the Indian government’s dedicated working group on logistics’), the USIBC will unveil a task force on supply chain standards, according to the USIBC.

Food retail

This will be followed by meetings on May 5, 8 and 10 with Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on the “emerging reform landscape in the food processing industry and food retail” as well as on the ‘World Food Forum in India’ that Ms. Badal’s ministry is slated to host in New Delhi in November 2017, the USIBC added.

The ‘Annual West Coast Summit’ — to be attended among others by Ms. Badal and other senior representatives from the Indian government, as well as Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu — will have discussions on U.S.-India technology partnerships in ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), smart city planning, India’s move towards a cashless economy and the future of technology relationship as well as investment opportunities in food retail and food processing, it said.

On May 9, there will be talks on legal and policy issues relating to the use of digital technologies like the IoT and cloud computing.

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