New Delhi: India and the US will hold their first high-level engagement on trade after President Donald Trump took charge, with back-to-back minister-level talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington.

The Indian delegation led by trade minister Suresh Prabhu is likely to raise issues such as higher H-1B visa fees and the need for a totalization agreement, and stress on early deliverables such as easier rules to export mangoes to the US. A totalization agreement will allow temporary Indian workers in the US to repatriate their social security contributions when they leave the country.

“We will target the low-hanging fruits. We are asking for pre-clearance of mango consignments by Indian authorities only. At present, inspectors from the US visit India and clear the mango consignments which increases cost for our exporters," a commerce ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration reworked the decade-old strategic and commercial dialogue with one in which the foreign and defence ministers will participate. While India was keen to merge the commercial dialogue and the one under the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), the US found it difficult as it has two minister-level trade officials—commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer—handling trade issues. However, the two trade dialogues have been tweaked by weeding out overlapping issues.

The trade dialogues will closely follow the first visit by secretary of state Rex Tillerson to New Delhi beginning Tuesday to reaffirm the bilateral strategic partnership.

Trump, during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, urged him to do more to relax trade barriers. “It is important that barriers be removed to the export of US goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country," he had said, seeking a trade relationship that is “fair and reciprocal".

India had a trade surplus of $20 billion in 2016-17 with exports of over $42 billion to the US during the same financial year.

Indian officials maintain that the country’s trade surplus with the US is not due to any largesse by the latter, and because of a comparative advantage.

“We are not on the defensive (going into the trade talks). India has substantially liberalized various sectors to foreign investors and has eased business conditions in the country," the ministry official quoted earlier said.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, during his recent trip to the US to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, said the goal of increasing the annual trade between the US and India to $500 billion is not a “distant dream" given the opportunities that New Delhi offers to American companies, particularly in aviation and defence sectors.

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