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India, US agree to hold comprehensive talks to address trade issues

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India and the US have agreed to hold official-level comprehensive talks to address trade and economic issues, days after President Donald Trump accused New Delhi of charging 100 per cent tariff on some of the US’ goods.

The decision in this regard was taken during a series of meetings visiting Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We will now work together to expand (bilateral) trade, Prabhu told a group of Indian reporters here yesterday at the conclusion of his two-day trip to the US.

India will send an official team to work out the details and initiate a comprehensive negotiation on all issues concerning trade and economic relationship between the two countries. “The team will come within the next few days,” Prabhu said.

Acknowledging that both sides have trade and tariff issues with each other, the minister said officials would hold talks on all of them.

President Trump, in a press conference in Canada’s Quebec City where he attended the G7 summit, took a swipe at India along with the world’s other top economies and accused New Delhi of charging 100 per cent tariff on some of the US’ goods, as he threatened to cut trade ties with countries who are robbing America.

Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Singh Sarna said New Delhi has written to the US on steel and aluminum tariff.

A full-fledged case has been made by India for waiver of steel and aluminum tariffs, he added. “It has been a very positive engagement.”

In addition to Ross and Lighthizer, Prabhu held talks with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He also met two powerful Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner – the two co-chairs of the Senate India caucus.

“The meetings were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, with appreciation for each other’s points of view. Discussions centered around bilateral trade and commercial relations between the two countries and focused on finding the way forward to address concerns of both sides,” the Indian Embassy said in a readout of the meetings.

“In this context, it was agreed that Indian and US officials would meet at a senior level at an early date to discuss various issues of interest to both sides and carry forward the discussions in a positive, constructive and result oriented manner,” it said.

During his two-day visit to Washington DC, Prabhu addressed business and industry leaders in meetings organised by US-India Business Council (USIBC) and US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and held meetings with other stakeholders.

“It’s a great time to join hands with each other. And that’s the realisation within the (Trump) administration as well. Therefore, we have really decided to move on. As you know, we always hear the trade disputes between US and India, but when I had meeting with the USTR, with the Commerce Secretary, with Agriculture Secretary, with Senators, it is very clear that we must move on, keep the issues behind, Prabhu told industry leaders at a reception hosted by USIBC in association with the FICCI and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

In his interaction with industry leaders at an event organised by the USISPF, Prabhu spoke about the improvements that have been made in the trade relationship, including trade deficit reduction.

Every great partnership has areas of agreement and disagreement. I’m hopeful that the US investment corridor is only going to grow, and I’m confident that we will be able to bridge our gaps, Prabhu noted.

The industry interaction included senior officials from leading US companies such as: Boston Scientific, FedEx, Walmart, Abbott, UTC, Honeywell, PhRMA, MoneyGram International, Lockheed Martin, Koch Industries, Amway, Uber, 21st Century Fox, and Medtronic.

Noting that India and the US have an important strategic relationship and shared goals, USIBC president Nisha Desai Biswal said the council is a constructive partner in achieving the full potential of the US-India commercial opportunity.

The USIBC roundtable organised in association with the CII comprised of US and Indian industry giants from the energy, aerospace, ICT, life sciences and defence sectors who reiterated India’s position as a critical market while also raising issues facing their companies such as data localization and price controls, as well as public procurement and operational hurdles.

In engaging with critical stakeholders, Prabhu highlighted the ongoing policy reforms being pursued by India to improve its business climate and remove bureaucratic hurdles.

Prabhu noted that India will soon release its new Industrial Policy, aimed at transforming India into a modern, flourishing, economic powerhouse.

During the interaction, he emphasized the importance of a dispute redressal mechanism, and resolving such issues together in a way that does not derail but rather strengthens bilateral ties.

Under Trump, trade dispute between India and the US has increased, with his administration asking New Delhi to lower its trade barriers and open up its market.

Trump has repeatedly raked up the issue of India imposing high import duty on the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles and threatened to increase the import tariff on “thousands and thousands” of Indian motorcycles to the US.

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Former UN chief Kofi Annan has died: foundation

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Geneva  |  Former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan has died today after a short illness at the age of 80, his foundation announced.

“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” the foundation said in a statement.

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Taliban say no peace with ‘occupation,’ want US talks

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Kabul  |  The leader of the Taliban said today there will be no peace in Afghanistan as long as the foreign “occupation” continues, reiterating the group’s position that the 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

In a message released in honour of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah said the group remains committed to “Islamic goals,” the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

The Taliban have had a major resurgence in recent years, seizing districts across the country and regularly carrying out large-scale attacks.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometres from the capital, Kabul. Afghan security forces battled the militants inside the city for five days, as the US carried out airstrikes and send advisers to help ground forces.

The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

A year ago, President Donald Trump announced that he would send additional U.S. forces to confront the Taliban. But since then the insurgents’ profile has risen, both on the battlefield and in the diplomatic sphere.

The Taliban sent a delegation to Uzbekistan to meet with senior officials earlier this month, and say they recently met with a senior US diplomat in Qatar for what they called “preliminary talks.” The US neither confirmed nor denied the meeting.

Earlier this week, the Taliban’s top political official, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, led a delegation to Indonesia, where he met Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi as well as Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s deputy president, according to a statement the Taliban sent to The Associated Press.

The three-day trip ended on Wednesday. The statement said Stanikzai discussed the presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and the need for them to leave if peace is to return to the country, said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman based in the group’s Qatar office.

While in Indonesia, Stanikzai also “exchanged views on bilateral relations,” Shaheen said in the statement, without elaborating.

From 1996 until 2001, the Taliban ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Women were barred from education and forced to wear the all-encompassing burka whenever they left their homes, and the country hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

The Taliban have refused to enter into talks with the Afghan government, which they view as a U.S. puppet, saying they will only negotiate the end of the war directly with Washington. The group has said it is committed to regional security and would not pose a danger to other countries.

However, it has also demanded the complete withdrawal of all US and NATO forces. Although NATO officially ended its combat mission at the end of 2014, it has repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces, and it’s unclear whether the government in Kabul would be able to remain in power without foreign military aid.

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Stocks wobble on Turkey, US-China concerns

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London  |  US and European stocks wobbled yesterday on investor concerns over Turkey and the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

A rebound in the Turkish lira was cut short by new threats by Ankara and Washington to impose more sanctions as the dispute over a jailed American pastor shows no sign of being resolved.

After spending most of the session lower, London’s blue-chip FTSE-100 rallied in the final minutes of trading to close a couple points higher. Paris closed marginally lower, while Frankfurt dipped 0.2 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks were also mixed in late morning trading, with the Dow up a tenth of a percentage point.

Asian stocks however, rallied after a positive lead from Wall Street overnight, with dealers cautiously optimistic about upcoming US-China trade talks — although worries festered over the future for emerging markets as a whole.

“The heightened tensions between the US and Turkey caused the Turkish lira to take a leg lower, and this reignited fears that the European banking system could be shaken by either defaults or non-performing loans from Turkey,” said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

Turkey on Friday vowed to respond if the United States followed through on its threat to levy further sanctions if it does not release the American pastor being held on terror charges.

After having clawed back most of its losses on Friday and Monday, when it shed 20 percent of its value against the dollar, the lira began falling again on the new sanctions threats, dropping by five percent at one point.

“The currency is not out of the woods yet and sellers are pushing to see at which level it will hold,” said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

The prospect of the United States and China returning to the table instead of trading tariff increases brought some relief to investors.

“Global trade worries have not disappeared,” said OANDA analyst Dean Popplewell.

“For now, the possibility of a Sino-US trade deal has brought some calm to the market — but trade and currency wars remain,” he added.

Negotiators from Washington and Beijing will meet later this month for the first publicly announced dialogue in weeks on their bitter trade dispute, which has seen both sides impose reciprocal tariffs on goods worth 34 billion.

The news helped global markets regain composure after several days of volatility sparked by fears that Turkey’s financial crisis could infect other economies.

“Markets are optimistic but remain wary,” said FXPro analyst Alexander Kuptsikevich.

“It is worth noting that the status of officials involved in the (US-China) negotiations is not very high, which eliminates the possibility of breakthrough decisions in the near future.” Tit-for-tat tariffs by the US and China on another 16 billion of each other’s goods are due to kick in next week, and President Donald Trump has threatened to go after even more Chinese imports in the future.

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