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Trade deal with India soon, says US

  • In India
  • 00:00, 24 Sep
  • By Sudhir Vyas

New York: India and the United States may soon sign a trade deal, President Donald Trump said at his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We will have trade deal very soon,” Trump said at the bilateral meet with Modi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly after their mega show in Houston.

The US President however did not say when this deal would come into effect or what would be included in the deal. India had been hoping for a limited trade deal after the Trump administration made little headway negotiating an end to its prolonged trade war with China that began earlier this year.

After the meeting Modi told reporters that he was happy with Petronet’s LNG deal with American energy company Tellurian Inc. “As far as trade (India-US trade) is concerned, I’m happy that our Petronet signed an MoU of US$ 2.5 Billion investment in the energy sector,” Modi said.

A trade deal could partially reinstate India’s preferential market access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program which Washington had revoked in June. Before the US scrapped GPS program, India had been the largest beneficiary of the program, which allowed certain imports from 120 countries to enter the United States at zero tariff.

Trump has been pushing India over import tariffs on Harley Davidson motorcycles and had said that India’s decision to slash cut the rate by 50% was still “unacceptable”.

The US has also been nudging India to remove price caps for medical devices — stents and knee implants, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which the NDA government had announced in its first term.

Speaking about financing for terror network all over the world the Prime Minister has called for ending the politicization of mechanisms created for combating terror, such as UN listings and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and stressed the need to accord the same level of urgency to fighting terrorism as to climate change.

Modi told a leaders' dialogue on responses to terror and violent extremism on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting that terrorists shouldn't be allowed to get funds and arms, according to secretary (west)  Gitesh Sarma of the external affairs ministry.

In an apparent reference to recent actions by China and Pakistan, Modi also said the world community needs "to avoid the politicization of mechanisms like UN listings and FATF" that need to be enforced, Sarma told reporters.

A terror attack anywhere in the world "should be considered terrorism - not good or bad terrorism" and "not more or less", Modi told the meeting. There should be "qualitative upgradation" in ongoing cooperation and intelligence-sharing through bilateral and regional frameworks, he added.

China and Pakistan worked together to prevent the UN Security Council from listing Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist for years until earlier this year, when they were steamrolled by the US, France and the UK in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama attack.

Pakistan has sought to tarnish the audit of its systems to prevent money laundering and terror funding by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with the prospect of being blacklisted, a punitive measure that can impede its international borrowing capability. The Paris-based watchdog, currently headed by China, is expected to decide on the blacklisting in October.

According to Sarma, Modi also told the meeting that democratic values, diversity and inclusive development are the most important weapons against ideologies that promote terrorism and extremism. Modi called for global solidarity and readiness against terrorism just as the world has shown unity on challenges such as climate change.

Counter-terrorism also figured in many of the bilateral meetings Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar had with counterparts, officials said. The situation in Kashmir came up at some meetings in the context of counterterrorism but the focus was on bilateral issues.

Modi held bilateral meetings with several world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Namibian President Hage Geingob, Maldives President Ibrahim Solih, Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.

He also met Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Briefing reporters about these engagements, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir came up in some meetings.

The emir of Qatar expressed his gratitude to the Indian diaspora for its role in supporting his country's economy. The two sides discussed counterterrorism cooperation against the backdrop of the situation in the region, Kumar said.

India has granted $35 million for building the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Center in Niger, which is nearing completion. The Niger president raised the issue of cooperation in agriculture and solar energy.

With Italy, the focus was on defense, economic cooperation and expanding bilateral investments. During the meeting with Maldives President Solih, there was a discussion on cooperation in cricket and climate change. "There is a proposal for training Maldivian cricketers in India and the training is going to start in October," Kumar said.

Jaishankar had bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Iran, Turkey, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates. He also met the US special envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.