Geneva: The Donald Trump administration will seek enhanced market access in India as it begins to formulate trade deals based on a bilateral framework to secure maximum gains for American companies and workers, while ensuring proper enforcement of such one-on-one deals, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Monday.
On his first full day in office, President Trump signed an executive order for pulling the US out of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. He said his trade deals would be “one-on-one" and “that will be better" as they would be easier to enforce.
At an earlier meeting with top business executives, Trump said he would punish companies that shut down factories in the US and moved jobs outside by imposing a “very major" border tax. Several analysts have already warned that the proposed border tax will violate global trade rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
ALSO READ | Trump’s decision to junk Trans-Pacific Partnership an opportunity for India
Elaborating on Trump’s decisions, Spicer said they “usher in a new era in US trade policy", based on bilateral deals that would take precedence over multilateral agreements. He argued that multilateral deals are not beneficial to US’ interests because they end up catering to the “lowest common denominator" as was the case with the 12-member TPP that put small countries on the same footing as the US.
Bilateral deals, on the other hand, offer a stronger bargaining position to the world’s largest economy and could be more easily updated or renegotiated, he explained.
Asked to comment on how the Trump administration would pursue relations with India, Spicer said that the US wants greater market access in India. But he did not elaborate on the areas in which the US wants enhanced access.
It remains to be seen whether the issue of market access and a possible bilateral trade agreement figured prominently in President Trump’s phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Tuesday—details of which were unavailable at the time of publishing this story.
ALSO READ | Donald Trump speaks with Narendra Modi over the phone
Trump’s trade policy based on “Buy American, Hire American" will cover both manufacturing and services sectors. The US, which outsources IT-related services to Indian companies, is already toying with proposals to review/tighten H-1B visas for ensuring more jobs for American professionals.
Last year, India launched a trade dispute against the US at the World Trade Organization over Washington’s alleged barriers on the movement of short-term service providers, or non-immigrant visas. India has raised two sets of issues concerning the US’s “measures relating to fees for L-1 and H-1B visas", and “measures relating to numerical commitment for H-1B visas".
While the HI-B visa category corresponds to the US’ commitments in the GATS schedule with respect to natural persons engaged in “speciality occupations", the L-1 visa category corresponds to intra-corporate transferees. GATS refers to the general agreement on trade in services, a WTO treaty.
ALSO READ | Why Trump’s withdrawal from Trans-Pacific trade deal is a boon for China
New Delhi challenged several US measures such as the US Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-113)—which would require higher filing fees and fraud prevention and detection fees under specific circumstances—and Section 402 of the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-230)—which was valid for the period between 13 August 2010 and 30 September 2015, involving higher filing fees and fraud prevention and detection fees of an additional amount of more than $2,000.
The US measures denied Indian IT companies favourable treatment as compared to American companies offering “like" services, India argued.
Against this backdrop, a bilateral trade agreement between the US, the world’s largest economy, and India, which has a long way to go, will obviously be beneficial to the former. Despite a trade surplus with the US to the tune of more than $20 billion last year, India will have to pay a huge price in a bilateral trade agreement with the US in agriculture, the pharmaceutical sector, and even in manufacturing sectors.