Senior lawmakers from the tax-writing committees in the US Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter on September 18 asking the Obama Administration to use the inaugural US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) to confront bilateral trade and investment problems.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) and its Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D – Oregon), together with House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) and its Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D – Michigan), wrote to the Administration before the S&CD that was held in Washington on September 22.
The letter outlined a number of concerns for the Administration to address including inadequate intellectual property rights protection, non-science-based agricultural barriers, and high tariffs for American exports in the Indian market.
The lawmakers pointed out that the United States and India "currently have the largest bilateral trade and investment flows ever recorded between the two countries, with total goods and services trade topping USD100bn in 2014, and that the commitment from both sides is to increase that to USD500bn."
However, while they supported that objective, they confirmed that "we must make meaningful progress in addressing the significant barriers that India has erected."
In particular, the letter noted that "India not only maintains a 50 percent average rate on its inbound tariffs but, as part of its 2015 Budget, actually raised applied tariffs on information technology products contravening its commitments under the World Trade Organization's Information Technology Agreement."
However, during the press conference held after the meeting, it was apparent that there had been no indication of movement by India on its import duties within the S&CD discussions.
In their remarks, US Secretary of State John Kerry and India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made no mention of trade. US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker reiterated the target of a fivefold increase in trade between the two countries, but said that the initial bilateral work plan is focused on "improving the ease of doing business, infrastructure development, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, and harmonizing standards and global supply chains."