New Delhi: India will press for early deliverables such as capacity building in corrosion-prevention technology and technical textiles during the commercial dialogue scheduled for Tuesday between commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her US counterpart, commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, even as contentious issues like the Totalisation Agreement and immigration struggle to make headway.

Pritzker is part of the team led by US President Barack Obama for his ongoing India visit.

While the corrosion-prevention technology is crucial to protect infrastructure projects and industrial products, technical textiles is a sunrise sector used in various industries including construction, agriculture and healthcare. Such advanced technologies available in the US are crucial to the Narendra Modi government’s Make in India and smart city projects.

“For a long time, commercial dialogue was dormant between both sides. Now, we see a lot of interest from both sides. So, there will be some movement in the near future," a commerce ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, the official said the two sides were unlikely to sign any agreement on this front during Obama’s visit.

India and the US have two institutional arrangements on trade—the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) and the Commercial Dialogue. While long-standing issues on agricultural goods, intellectual property rights (IPR), Totalisation Agreement and immigration are discussed under TPF, the Commercial Dialogue provides a forum for both governments and the private sector of both countries to collaborate on issues of mutual interest.

The commercial dialogue was envisaged by former US president Bill Clinton and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the former’s India visit in March 2000 to facilitate trade and maximize investment opportunities across a broad range of economic sectors, including information technology, infrastructure, biotechnology and services.

“Within Commercial Dialogue, issues such as how we could attract investment in areas such as special economic zones, information technology, infrastructure, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and smart cities will be discussed. How more investment can flow in under the Make in India campaign will also be taken up," the official said.

“The second issue that we are discussing is how to undertake capacity building activity relating to technology to prevent corrosion in industries such as shipping, automobiles and aviation. Such advanced and highly evolved technology is available in the US. We are looking into how our industry can learn from them," he added.

Similarly, capacity building activity is also being explored in areas of technical textiles such as geotextiles, protextiles and agrotextiles, the official said. “Geotextiles are used during road building so that the longevity of roads can be increased. Similarly, agrotextiles help in water retention and water management while protextiles are used for protection from water and fire," the official explained.

In November, both sides held preliminary talks in Mumbai on sharing best practices in corrosion-prevention technologies.

“The round-table discussion was led by industry experts from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE International) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and addressed how to protect infrastructure projects from the effects of corrosion and offered appropriate know-how solutions to enhance the life of civil structures. NACE International also made a commitment to provide training and skills development in the corrosion sector in India," a statement issued by the US consulate general in Mumbai said in November.

After a lull in bilateral trade relationship, both sides resolved their differences on the food security matter to seal a deal at the World Trade Organization in November. Later that month, both sides held a Trade Policy Forum meeting after a gap of four years.

Soon after, India’s trade ministry announced a committee to identify bottlenecks faced by US firms wanting to invest in the country and fast-track investments. During Modi’s visit to Washington in September, the two sides announced a working group on IPR issues to resolve differences.

As part of their schedule, both Modi and Obama will address the India-US CEO Forum and the India-US Business Summit on Monday. Led by David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International Inc., a group of US executives will hold discussions with their Indian peers under the aegis of the India-US CEO forum, which will be co-chaired by Cyrus P. Mistry, chairman, Tata Sons Ltd.

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