At a USIBC event, Goyal also said that he will engage with the new United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai to try and put together a fresh trade package. “The old one is now off the table,” he said.
On some of the big technology companies in India, Goyal said: “There are lot of concerns about the behaviour of big tech companies including American companies and India would like to protect its policy space”.
His statement assumes significance in the wake of the ongoing tiff between the government and Twitter over tweets and accounts linked to the continuing farmers’ protests against certain agriculture reform laws.
“India would like to express its concerns about some of these big tech giants not willing to adhere to the law of the land and to the social fabbric that we value very much in India,” he added.
Goyal said India is very keen to expand on digital space with the US but is conscious of the responsibility to the people of India about data privacy.
“We are concerned about big corporations holding a lot of data of our citizens often using them for cross businesses or across thier different sectors,” he said, adding that the MInistry of Electronics and Information Technology has already put forth the first data privacy law which is in public domain and being debated in the parliamenatry standing committee before which many US companies have also made presentations.
The minister asked USIBC to play a responsbile role in getting large American copanies to respond to India, the laws of India and the sensitivities around the country’s social fabric because “otherwise that could become an impediment to expanding this partnership on the digital technology front”.
Trade package, FDI, 5G
Goyal said the two sides will work on a greater engagement as the “last time when we were discussing, we were nitpicking very very small issues and changing the goal post in every subsequent conversations”.
“I do hope that this time around we can look at the big picture…we have to sort out some of the issues which are much more relevant to a larger engagement and leave some of the small things which earlier were kind of deal breakers,” he said.
As per the minister, these small issues were taking a lot of management and political bandwidth and need to be left aside and “move into the orbit of a much greater engagement”.
Emphasising that the US has a lot to offer in terms of technology, finance and innovation while India has a large market, Goyal said India has to protect its people in agriculture, protect people from low quality products coming in from certain geographies but also can not afford to increase prices to very exorbitant levels.
He also said that India has met one specific ask of the US- to increase the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in insurance.
“I do hope we se some fresh capital coming in and not people just selling some old stakes and upping the foreign investor stakes. The purpose of increasing the fdi cap was to help the insurance companies grow in india,” he said.
On the issue of 5G, Goyal said India would like to engage much more with the US but because of lack of competition or exorbitant costs, the country will not be in a position to accept those costs.
“So, I think the US will have to be very sensitive to price points in India which matter to emerging economy with millions of people just coming out of poverty,” he said.
Goyal said some of the American pharma comanies are unhappy about India not allowing evergreening of phrama products.
“They change a molecule a litle bit and they call it a new innovation, and want a very high price for that,” Goyal said, adding that the per capita income of India is below $2,000 and healthcare costs to poeple have to be kept affordable.
“I do hope that American companies will recognise this reality including your medical devices compaies and rather than trying to push through small tinkering of technologies, which do not really impact the medical efficacy of treatnent or cure, but are more to keep the higher prices intact,” he said and asked the US to not
make that a deal breaker in the bilateral engagement.
“That has been the bone of contention for many years. I do hope that your pharma companies, medical devices companies see the writing on the walls… and if you recognise that reality, possibly we could help you make your healthcare more affordable,” Goyal said.