Issues in digital infrastructure, information and communications technology (ICT), healthcare and pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defence, entrepreneurship, financial services and investment also came up for discussions at the virtual meeting that saw participation from at least 24 CEOs from both sides.
The forum is cochaired by Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran and Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet and was held alongside the India-US Commercial Dialogue chaired by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross.
“The two meetings were scheduled for an hour each,” said an official.
Working groups on digital infrastructure, health and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and infrastructure, entrepreneurship, energy and financial services shared their readouts at the forum.
The US remained India’s top trading partner for the second consecutive year in 2019-20 with bilateral trade at $88.75 billion, up from $87.96 billion in FY19.
The meeting is crucial as India is discussing different issues with the US independently at multiple levels.
While the digital tax issue is being discussed with the United States Trade Representative, totalisation and suspension of work visas including H-1B visas are being taken up with the US department of commerce.
Digital services tax is high on the US’ agenda with Washington planning a probe on such taxes being levied by India and nine others including the European Union, whereas New Delhi is keen on a totalisation pact with the US aimed at doing away with dual social security taxation for its workers.
The two sides are working on a limited trade deal as the US is keen on a deal ahead of its presidential elections in November and had indicated that an initial deal could include restoration of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to India and market access for each other’s agricultural products with a long-term view of a broader trade agreement or a free trade agreement (FTA).
New Delhi has demanded exemption from high duties imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products and market access for its farm products, while the US has sought market access for its farm and manufacturing and products, medical devices, and lower duties for certain ICT products.
It had also sought data-related relaxations, including in the ecommerce policy that India is working on. The latest draft of the policy says companies that store or mirror Indian users’ data overseas will be subject to periodic audits and also make available any data the government seeks within 72 hours or pay a penalty.