14th TPF meet: USFDA inspections, social security top agenda as India, US go to trade policy talks


A lot of issues are on the table as India and US go to talks at the 14th Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meet in New Delhi starting January 12. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai is on a three-day visit to India for this meeting.

Tai and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal will co-chair the meeting.

On India’s agenda are a number of key issues that include a social security pact, US audit of Indian pharma players, etc.

Other issues to be raised by India are: a) delay in visa; b) increasing exports of table grapes, pharma goods, and marine products such as wild caught fish and shrimp; c) reinstating the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status to India; d) export control regulations for high-tech products and technologies; more access for Indian mangoes to the American market, etc.

The two prime issues that will dominate the discussions this time are the social security pact and USFDA drug inspections in India, news agency PTI reported.

Social security pact
The Social security pact is also called a totalisation agreement. It is one of India’s long-pending demands. When in place, it will give social security to Indian professionals working in the US. Under the provisions of the pact, dual social security deduction — both in the home country and in the nation where an individual works — will be done away with.Essentially, “an expatriate in either country need not contribute to the social security scheme of the host country,” PTI reported citing the proposed agreement.It will significantly benefit a large number of Indians, especially techies working in America. These individuals pay social security there, but are not able to get any benefit out of it.

India has already provided the other side with all the required info on this, PTI said quoting an official. This include data from different social security schemes like Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), New Pension Scheme (NPS), and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation.

USFDA inspections of Indian pharma
Also on the table is a proposal to fast-track USFDA’s inspections of Indian pharmaceutical companies.

The nod from USFDA is a must for any company to sell medicines in the US. Under a standard procedure, American inspectors check drug manufacturing units’ facilities to ensure quality.

As per the official quoted by PTI, India wants a fast-tracking of these audits through digital or physical means as as to take them to pre-Covid levels.

America is India’s largest pharma export market. According to latest available data (which is for April-February 2023), India’s pharma exports to the US stood at $6.79 billion — almost 30% of India’s pharma sales globally.

Covid had wrecked this inspection process, leading to a huge backlog. That has badly hit approvals and renewals of medicines and factories.

TPF and the state of India-US trade
The TPF platform is used by the two sides to find solutions to issues arising in bilateral trade and investment matters. The TPF has five focus groups — agriculture, investment, innovation, and creativity (intellectual property rights), services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.

America is India’s biggest trade partner, accounting for nearly 20% of India’s total exports in goods. Besides, it is a major market for Indian services sectors, including IT.

The total size of India-US total bilateral trade rose to $129.4 billion as of 2022-23, from $120 billion a year earlier. Also, FDI to India from the US reached $6 billion in 2022-23.

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