India trade minister says will work with U.S. on new trade package

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FILE PHOTO: Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said on Wednesday he will engage with the new U.S. Trade Representative’s office on a trade deal after a previous attempt to seal a limited accord failed.

Negotiators from both countries struggled to conclude a ‘mini’ trade package for months as both New Delhi and Washington sparred over a range of issues, including tariffs. Goyal said he would make a new start with the new U.S. administration.

“I will also engage with the new USTR to try and put together a fresh package. I think the old one is now off the table,” Goyal said at a U.S.-India Business Council event.

Goyal said India had taken series of measures to liberalise its economy and hoped for new investments from U.S. firms.

“One specific ask of the U.S. to increase the FDI limit in insurance has been accepted,” Goyal said.

In its federal budget, India lifted caps on foreign investment in its vast insurance market as part of steps to help revive an economy that has suffered its deepest recorded slump as a result of the pandemic.

Goyal said both countries were working in healthcare sector, among areas of collaboration, citing its success in tackling the pandemic.

“We are working with the U.S. administration also, exchanging ideas, working on broad contours of greater engagement even on the healthcare sphere.”

As the world’s biggest vaccine maker, India is set to play a key role in the production of COVID-19 shots.

Differences between India and the United States have remained on a large set of issues related to e-commerce and data storage rules.

Goyal said India was concerned about the behaviour of big tech companies, including U.S. firms and would want to protect policy space, including data privacy.

“We are concerned about big corporations holding a lot of data of our citizens, often using them for cross-businesses or across their different sectors,” Goyal said.

(Reporting by Neha Arora in NEW DELHI; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Sanjeev Miglani and Angus MacSwan)

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