Corporate honchos from India and the US recommended a raft of policy steps, including the need for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, as they joined commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and his American counterpart Wilbur Ross in a teleconference late on Tuesday to further deepen bilateral ties. N Chandrasekaran, the co-chair of the India-US CEO forum and the chairman of Tata Sons, highlighted the need for the FTA as a “natural progression and outcome of the deepening commercial engagement” between the two countries, according to a commerce ministry statement on Wednesday.
Before the pandemic, India had planned to wrap up the “limited” deal with the US first and then explore the feasibility of a broader FTA after the American presidential elections in November, sources had said earlier. But the pandemic seems to have delayed the plan.
Chandrasekaran also urged the US government to recognise the contribution of India’s human capital to the American economy, and the “need for unhindered cross-border mobility of such talent”. His statement comes days after the Trump administration decided to suspend the issuance of new non-immigrant visas, especially for skilled professionals, until December 31, the latest in a series of such steps that have potential to hurt the Indian IT industry. It wasn’t immediately clear if the two sides also discussed the US move to launch a probe against India and nine others, including the EU and the UK, for imposing or considering a 2% digital services tax (equalisation levy) with potential to hurt American companies.
At a time when Beijing’s relations with both Washington and New Delhi have strained, Chandrasekaran also stressed the global efforts underway to rebalance global supply chains, due to both geo-political and trade-related issues. James Taiclet, the US co-chair of the forum and chief executive of Lockheed Martin, highlighted areas of unrestricted foreign ownership, policy stability and predictability, timely dispute resolution, protection of intellectual property and continuing investment in infrastructure as some of the key focus areas.