The U.S. and India discussed the “possibility” of a free trade pact, India’s Commerce and Industry Ministry said in a statement Thursday, just days after India began free trade agreement talks with the European Union.
In a telephone conversation, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross discussed the coronavirus pandemic.
“The two leaders also conversed on the ongoing India-USA trade discussions and appreciated the substantial progress made by both sides on most of the outstanding issues,” the statement said.
“There was a desire expressed to conclude this limited trade package and recognizing the complementarities of the India-USA bilateral trade,” the statement reads.
Goyal voiced the issue of the U.S. keeping certain Indian goods under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act list and naming them as “child labor sectors,” which would bar them from participating in supply contracts with U.S. government agencies.
India’s minister also raised concerns about the U.S. ban on import of wild catch shrimp by India. In a report released by the U.S. State Department in April, India was not included in the list of countries whose wild shrimp was eligible to enter the U.S., due to not meeting U.S. regulations aimed at protecting sea turtles during shrimp harvesting.
In response to both concerns, Ross offered to set up a meeting to address them.
The telephone call between Goyal and Ross comes five months after President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previously discussed trade in February during Trump’s visit to New Delhi.
While substantial steps toward an agreement were not made, Modi had called the two countries “natural partners,” and Trump had expressed his optimism that he and Modi could reach “a good, even great deal” for both sides.