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Dialogue to resolve Indo-US trade dispute as Trump, Modi meet in Japan

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New Delhi/Osaka :Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have decided to refer the trade dispute to the line Ministries for early discussions, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in Osaka on Friday.

Modi also flagged threats to Indian interests due to the continuing US-Iran standoff while pointing out that India had reduced its oil imports from Tehran despite the adverse effect on the domestic economy.

The paucity of time, as the PM had to leave for the BRICS summit, led to a brief discussion on defence cooperation, said Gokhale.
“No one issue will impact the larger strategic relations with the US. We have some issues, we will work through them,” Gokhale said, adding that neither time nor the level permitted discussions on trade. The idea was to clear the air and set the agenda for resolving trade matters.

India-US-Japan trilateral

Their brief meeting on the margins of the G-20 summit overlapped a trilateral with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where the main topic was how the three countries can work together in the Indo-Pacific to develop infrastructure and connectivity and ensuring that peace and security is maintained. “The three leaders agreed to build upon this new concept for the benefit of the region as a whole and the three countries particularly,” said Gokhale.

This is the second time the three leaders are meeting in this format after the maiden meeting in Buenos Aires and it was decided to keep it going.

Indo-US trade talks

Both Modi and Trump spoke about their concerns and interests during their bilateral and decided to ask their Trade Ministers to meet at an early date and sort out these issues. As US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Steve Mnuchin were in the room, Gokhale expected an early meeting with the level yet to be decided.

Modi told Trump that India’s retaliatory duties on 28 products after the US scrapped its GSP access was in the past and the time had come to resolve these issues by dialogue.

Gokhale described Modi’s talks with Trump as “very open, productive and warm” during which they briefly reviewed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interaction in Delhi with the Indian leadership. Modi appreciated Trump’s warm letter he had dispatched through Pompeo.

India’s Iran concerns

Of the four issues they discussed, defence was the briefest while on Iran, Modi hinted at de-escalation by outlining the danger to India’s energy security, diaspora’s wellbeing and economic interests due to heightened tensions in West Asia.

The PM also informed Trump about India’s deployment of war vessels to safeguard Indian flagged vessels passing through the Straits of Hormuz. “This was appreciated by Trump. He also talked about what the US is doing to maintain stability in the Gulf and spoke about keeping in touch on the Iran situation,” said Gokhale.

5G collaboration

Trump took up Modi’s proposal for collaboration between the Silicon Valley and Indian engineers to further develop the 5G technology. The Foreign Ministers and Telecom Ministers of both countries will be asked to deepen the proposal with the main impetus to come from the business.

Before arriving in India, Pompeo had spoken on the need for India to make a secure choice in 5G technology. The implication was that India should avoid Chinese technology which the US considers unsafe from a security point of view.

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