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India-US talks on trade at advanced state: Piyush Goyal

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New Delhi, Jan 17: Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said India and the US are in an "advance stage" of dialogue to resolve some of the pressing trade issues.

He said that both the countries can expand their trade relations which in future may result in a preferential or a free trade agreement.

India-US talks on trade at advanced state: Piyush Goyal

"With the US, we are in an advanced stage of dialogue to sort out some of the pressing issues," he said here.

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The remarks assume significance as both the countries are negotiating a trade package to boost two-way commerce.

The minister said that both the nations are big trading partners and can further expand trade.

"...I would believe that going forward both counties will like to further expand that engagement which could lead to PTA (preferential trade agreement) and FTA (free trade agreement) in the years ahead," he added.

Talking about the stalled negotiations on the proposed free trade pact between India and the European Union, Goyal said countries like Germany and France are keen that both the regions should enter into a trade pact.

"...at least begin with a PTA and move towards an FTA. I am looking forward to my engagement with EU trade commission," he said.

"We are very keen to pursue the dialogue further. Earlier the dialogue was stalled largely on wines, spirits and automobiles. I think those are not as contentious issues today," he said.

However, he added, issues on agriculture and non-tariff barriers will find centre-stage in any new negotiations.

A proposed free-trade pact has been stalled since May 2013 between India and the EU as both sides failed to iron out differences of several issues.

The EU is seeking a significant cut in import duties on wines, spirits and automobiles.

The commerce minister also said that India has "clearly" faced discrimination and lot of unfair trade practices from different countries around the world and now the country is in the process of bringing them out in right perspective and placing them before its trading partners.

About India's decision to withdraw from RCEP bloc, he said China was one of the 16 members of this grouping and "we have very serious concerns about the way they are carrying out their trade and about the ways Chinese ecosystem is locked down for fair trade practices with other countries".

Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, he said India's trade deficit with the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) countries grew ten times from barely $7 billion to about $65-70 billion and today it is about $105 billion.

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"We were not able to get fair access for our products and services in these countries," he said adding services, a very important area for India, were not getting sufficient place in the agreement.

In this backdrop, he said: "I and my government realise that it would be only detrimental to the domestic industry to get into the RCEP unless we get a credible fair and accountable resolution of concerns."

He added that other countries were not in a position in a short timeframe to resolve those issues and "it would have been a good diplomatic move but certainly bad trade decision to be part of RCEP and I think trade will have to stand on its own legs and can not be dictated purely by diplomatic concerns."

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