Pompeo says U.S. open to dialogue with India after trade snub

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is open to dialogue with India after taking away its preferential trading status, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday as he prepares to travel to New Delhi.

"I'm sure we'll broach some tough topics," Pompeo said in a speech on U.S. policy toward India.

"We'll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP program," he added, referring to the Generalized System of Preferences.

India has been the single biggest beneficiary of that decades-old US program, which allowed it to export $5.7 billion worth of goods, duty-free, to the US in 2017, according to figures from the US Congress.

President Donald Trump removed New Delhi from the system in early June, even as Washington tries to boost ties with India as a counterweight to China and despite Trump's stated good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In removing India from the GSP, Trump complained that it does not provide U.S. goods with equitable and reasonable access to its market.

"We remain open to dialogue, and hope that our Indian friends will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies," Pompeo said.

He said that countries that have offered the U..S fair and reciprocal trade since Trump came to power in January 2017 have "seen America open up to them and they've seen real opportunity."

Pompeo will visit India as part of a tour of Asia from June 24-30 with the aim of underlining the importance of U.S. ties with India after Modi's re-election last month.

On Wednesday, Pompeo called for a strengthening of cooperation with India in defense, energy and space, and defended the U.S. vision of an Indo-Pacific region that is "free and open"  an idea designed to push back against the expansionist aspirations that Washington sees in China.

"We realize it's different to deal with the likes of China or Pakistan from across an ocean than it is when they are on your borders," Pompeo said.

— Agence France-Presse

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