Final U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue Shows Some Areas of Serious Dialogue, Little Concrete Progress on Priority Issues for Manufacturers

By Ryan Ong, Director for International Business Policy

The United States and India concluded the last major bilateral commercial dialogue of the Obama administration today in Delhi, wrapping up a week of workshops and high-level bilateral meetings with a long joint statement on commercial topics. While this year’s dialogue included language that indicates discussion on issues that better reflects manufacturers’ priorities, such as discussions on intellectual property and customs clearance, it still lacked specific, concrete outcomes that manufacturers in the United States sought to be addressed in order to improve significantly U.S. commercial engagement with India.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has long been a strong supporter of a robust U.S.–India commercial relationship that creates opportunities for manufacturers to export, invest and sell on a level, competitive playing field. Indeed, the two countries have great potential to grow a relatively dormant commercial partnership, building on the relatively low levels of trade and investment between the two countries. This year’s Trade Policy Forum (TPF) was the third of a series of high-level engagements that have already taken place this year, including the Strategic & Commercial Dialogue in August and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June visit to the United States.

Yet the TPF, like those earlier dialogues, proved long on rhetoric but short on new tangible outcomes to address the business issues that the NAM highlighted in its May 2016 list of priorities for this year’s dialogues. Highlights of this year’s fact sheet show the continued focus on dialogue versus action: joint acknowledgement of the value of “robust and balanced IPR protection” and a “transparent, predictable and open business environment,” updates on regulations on computer-related inventions and readouts of productive exchanges on trade secrets and trade facilitation that took place on the sidelines of the dialogue.

As the United States and India look beyond the current U.S. administration to think about engagement in 2017 and beyond, the NAM urges both sides to identify meaningful areas where tangible progress can actually be achieved. Real deliverables—not just more working groups and dialogues—remain the litmus test that many industries in the United States will use to judge the potential growth of the commercial relationship and whether India can be a strong commercial partner for the United States or just another country where manufacturers have to fight through a sea of trade barriers.

Learn more about the NAM’s work to improve U.S.–India trade relations here.