The United States and India held their first round of formal trade talks in four years on Tuesday, seeking to capitalize on the resolution of a global trade dispute to repair a dialogue that had fallen into neglect.
While the two sides reported no breakthroughs at the Trade Policy Forum, they did set out a work schedule to follow up on talks that focused on agriculture, services, manufacturing and intellectual property rights, a joint statement said.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said he was cautiously optimistic after the talks, but played down hopes of major “deliverables” at President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January, his second after a trip in 2010.
Froman welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” drive to bring about a Chinese-style manufacturing boom, as well as initiatives to spread access to digital services and build smart cities.
But he also urged India to keep its market open and ensure that foreign investors can operate in a “transparent, predictable and consistent” environment.
“Expectations are very high and it would be important to translate those expectations into concrete measures on the ground, ” he told a news briefing after the talks with Commerce Minister Nirmala Sithamaran.
Direct contacts between Obama and Modi this month helped end a deadlock that had prevented the World Trade Organization from implementing a $1 trillion package of reforms to global customs rules.
But, even though trade between the world’s two largest democracies has grown fivefold since the turn of the millennium to around $100 billion, friction persists on areas from drug patents to local content rules for manufacturers.
Froman said that Tuesday’s talks had set out a “robust” work plan for the year ahead. Officials from the Indian side said that there were no breakthroughs on Tuesday, but also said that trade discussions would be intensified.