There was a fairly serious negotiation between India and the Trump administration on resolving the outstanding trade issues as well as to clinch a trade deal, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday.
The external affairs minister said the focus of the talks was to address the “differences” before moving towards “something bigger”.
Participating in an interactive session at the annual general meeting of industry body FICCI, Mr Jaishankar said the US economy was largely a “complementary” one and that there was “no fundamental clash of interests” between the two sides though there are some areas of overlap.
“There was a fairly serious negotiation between our government and the Trump administration on resolving the outstanding trade issues. I think the general thinking on both sides was ”let’s deal with differences before we think of something bigger”,” he said.
The external affairs minister said a lot of discussions had taken place over the proposed deal.
“For a variety of reasons, they didn’t close it out. I can tell you on our side, we were dead serious. We wanted to deal with those issues because we thought there was something much bigger that was in store for the relationship. But it didn’t happen. And often when it comes to trade discussions (they) are like business discussions between two governments,” he said.
In such discussions, the devil is in the details, he said, adding, “If you do not close out a deal, it is not a deal.”
“We made a very focused serious persevering effort. It didn’t get done this year. I do believe that in a very very basic way, the US is a complementary economy,” he said.
The external affairs minister further said: “I certainly hope that we have serious discussions once the (Biden) administration comes in. I know our minister is very focused on it, and it is something which is rightly very important on his agenda.”
The Trump administration last year terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary under the key GSP trade programme on the ground that it has not provided the US equitable and reasonable access to its markets.
Export of certain goods to the US were previously allowed in duty-free category under a special trade scheme called the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
The US has been seeking greater access to India’s huge poultry and dairy markets. However, India has some reservations over it.
Asked about the outcome of the US presidential election, Mr Jaishankar suggested that the ties between the two countries will continue to expand.
“If I were to sum up my takeaway from the Biden administration coming into office, I would say vis-a-vis the world, quite apart from the security issues and the political influence issues, one big question for them is how do they keep America competitive. And the other big question is really, how do they deal with the climate change challenge,” he said.
Mr Jaishankar said the Indo-US relationship is at a “different level” now and that cooperation in security and defence will continue to be key aspects of it.
“When it comes to economic issues, especially competitiveness, I think India can make a big difference. Because we are actually doing today much more on global issues and global challenges than we have done before, even on something like climate change if you look,” he added.