Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Thursday said the United States unilaterally withdrew the preferential trade treatment for India under the Generalised System of Preferences programme, reported ANI. The US government had terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary in June, claiming it had not assured the US that it would “provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets”.

“Generalised System of Preferences is a unilateral decision, given by countries to other countries based on certain criteria,” Gokhale said in a press briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming trip to the US. “We are a developing country, we meet those criteria. I do not recall our ever stating that we are not interested in GSP. We believe that GSP is something which is important for our industry but ultimately it is a matter for the US to take a call on.”

India was the largest beneficiary of the GSP programme in 2017, which allowed for $5.6 billion, around Rs 3,896 crore, worth of Indian exports to enter the country duty-free.

On Tuesday, a group of 44 US lawmakers – 26 Democrats and 18 Republicans – urged the Donald Trump administration to reinstate preferential trade treatment for India. The members of the US Congress, in a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said the costs of GSP termination were real for their constituents and only growing each day. The Coalition for GSP – a US-based group of businesses, trade associations and consumer organisations that advocates for the renewal of GSP – said the termination of the programme for India cost American companies about $30 million in July.

Gokhale also mentioned details of Modi’s itinierary. The prime minister will be in the US from September 21 to 27, and will visit Houston in Texas and New York.

On September 22, Modi will address the Indian diaspora at the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston. “We are delighted that President Trump will also be there,” said Gokhale.

In New York, Modi will attend the UN General Assembly and an event on September 24 commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The president of the Republic of Korea, and the prime ministers of Singapore, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Jamaica and the UN secretary general will attend the event.

Modi will end his visit with an address to the General Assembly session on September 27.

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