India, US can do larger trade deal much faster: Goyal

India, US can do larger trade deal much faster: Goyal

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. (PTI Photo)

 Commerce minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said India and the US can finalise a larger trade deal "much fast" and expressed hope to achieve a bilateral trade target of USD 500 billion in the next five years.

Addressing a CII event here, the minister said, "Hopefully, we will close the first set of the limited engagement which we have already discussed and nearly finalised (by) US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and me. We will get into legal vetting and close that quickly."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump on Tuesday held delegation-level talks on key issues such as trade and energy cooperation.

The minister said that both the leaders have decided to formally engage to move towards a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two big economies.

When asked how fast India and the US can finalise an FTA, he said, "I would personally think that we can do a much larger trade deal much fast."

Citing reasons for his expectations, he said that the rule of law is there in both the democracies and that is very important when one is looking at a trade deal.

"We are both transparent economies... We can trust each other, we can talk with openness and fairness and in that spirit, the two nations have decided to engage on a fast-track basis," he said.

"So I certainly do not see that this will be like one of those earlier free trade agreement negotiations going for decades and years...or one fine day, literally spinning a surprise to businesses of both the sides where something has wrapped and signed without enough due diligence," Goyal said.

He said his ministry will conduct comprehensive stakeholder consultations and engaged with all concerned people on issues including market access, opening up services, on investment protocols, and on areas of mutual interest.

"I can assure all of you that what will be done will be done in the best interest of both the countries. It will be a win-win," Goyal added.

Generally in a limited trade deal, two trading partners reduce customs duties on limited number of goods to enhance economic ties. On the other hand, FTA is a big trade deal under which two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on maximum number of goods traded between them. Besides, they also relax norms for promoting investments and trade in services.

Goyal said that America will also gain significantly with this partnership.

He also expressed hope that the bilateral trade target of USD 500 billion is certainly achievable target in the next five years.

"We are already the largest trading partners...I see this USD 500 billion as a good benchmark to work with," he added.

On investments, the minister said businesses invest in any country not "out of charity" but when they see an opportunity.

"India offers that opportunity....we are providing that opportunity, people are most welcome and we invite and welcome capital. We invite your investment into India but not at the cost of our pride," he said.

When asked whether India is losing out businesses/manufacturing to the US, Goyal said if at all India has lost out, it has "lost out more significantly towards the East".

He said that India's earlier trade agreements did not provide enough opportunities for Indian manufacturing/businesses to expand and grow but opened large amounts of "our markets".

"What we are trying to do here is exactly reverse of that. We are trying to get innovation to engage with India, we are trying to learn from huge amounts of investments that the US does in development in modern technologies," he said.

Talking about railways, he said India has successfully developed indigenous semi hi-speed railway "and I am tempted to think that may be I should now look at going in for high speed rail development also given the success of Vande Bharat and see if we can develop indigenously".

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