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India may turn down US’ push for bilateral trade agreement

India is likely to turn down the US’ push for establishing a bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA), the talks for which were commenced under the previous regime of United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

To push its exports into the Indian market, the US had been urging India to have the pact with it that will have a special concessional tariff arrangement. This is different from the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which required tariffs to be reduced to zero in a phased manner.

“India is in the process of revising our model BIT Agreement to eliminate the prospects of investors-state dispute in future. We hope to have revised the model in place in a few months, after which we could resume our negotiations,” a top official told Business Standard.

BTIA was agreed in March 2010 under then commerce minister Anand Sharma and former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. However, while India had slowed down the pace of negotiations, the US had been pushing for it.

According to K Nandini Singla, director, AMS Division, Ministry of External Affairs, during his ongoing visit to the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not going to discuss the issue with US President Barack Obama when both leaders meet in Washington next week for bilateral meeting.   

However, according to sources in the US government, the other side is expected to take up the issue strongly with India.

It is learnt that the prime minister will promote his ‘Make In India’ strategy even there wherein he will urge all the top American multinational firms to set up shop in India and produce from here. This will be on the same lines that Modi has done with Japan and China.

Modi will be meeting the top brass in the US administration during his stay in Washington.

On September 29, he is going to have a private dinner with Obama at the White House, which will be attended by US trade representative Michael Froman and US commerce secretary Penny Pritzker.

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