India to stay out of trade talks with US-led Indo-Pacific group

India stays out of negotiations on trade at first in-person ministerial meeting of 14-nation IPEF for Prosperity

India stays out of negotiations on trade at first in-person ministerial meeting of 14-nation IPEF for Prosperity
India stays out of negotiations on trade at first in-person ministerial meeting of 14-nation IPEF for Prosperity

India stands for its independent trade policy

India has stayed out of negotiations on trade at the first in-person ministerial meeting of the 14-nation Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) for Prosperity, held in Los Angeles.

The official said, “India has agreed to the remaining three pillars (supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy). We are not yet clear on the binding commitments of the trade pillar. So, we will wait and see what the commitments set out in further deliberations and we will act accordingly.”

India participated in discussions on the remaining three pillars and also signed on to the separate statements that were released during the negotiations. All 14 member nations signed the three statements, but only 13 signed the one on trade, with India deciding to sit it out.

The trade arrangement was launched by US President Joe Biden in May 2022, joined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among other leaders of the member countries. Trade is one of the four pillars of this agreement, the other three are Supply Chain, Clean Economy, and Fair Economy.

It seeks to strengthen economic partnerships among participating countries with the objective of enhancing resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the region.

India was led by Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal at the talks. He also held several bilateral meetings including with his US counterparts – Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

The 14 members of the IPEF are — Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the US.

“You have correctly noted that India is not now in the trade pillar,” US Trade Representative Tai said at a news conference with Commerce Secretary Raimondo in Los Angeles on Friday, at the conclusion of the discussion on Thursday. She added that she has been in regular touch with her Indian counterpart Goyal and that the two countries do and will cover the same issues – as at the IPEF – in their bilateral discussions, such as the Trade Policy Forum, which is to meet later in the year.

Raimondo said the IPEF is meant to be “flexible and inclusive”. Trade remains a key irritant in India-US relations, which have otherwise seen significant progress.

When pressed for specific “sticking points” behind India’s absence from trade talks, Tai, who is usually very careful with her words, couldn’t contain her frustration. “I both want to and I don’t want to, right,” she said. “Part of me wants to tell you everything that just happened. But part of me is here to build trust with our partners.”

Tai then took another shot at answering the question. “We obviously value each of the countries in this partnership and have a strong and important trading relationship with each one of them. I think that part of the challenge in bringing together a group of 14 is you’ve got 14 different points of view in that room. You’ve got 14 different ministers representing 14 different economies, who are part of 14 different bureaucracies, who come from 14 different political landscapes with stakeholders with needs and priorities. So I think that that might be the hardest part of an exercise like this.”

[With Inputs from IANS]

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