India-US trade talks restart with little sign of compromise

US President Donald Trump has been putting pressure on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open markets. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019

India-US trade talks restart with little sign of compromise

  • Trump and Modi met in Osaka on the sidelines of a G20 summit in June where they agreed to build ties between the two countries and sort out thorny trade issues

NEW DELHI: India and US trade negotiators will meet on Friday, with few signs of a compromise on a series of protectionist measures taken by the two governments in recent months that have strained ties between the strategic partners.
US President Donald Trump has been putting pressure on India to do more to open its markets, saying this week again on Twitter its high tariffs were “unacceptable.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, re-elected in May, has been pushing nationalist policies with higher tariffs on everything from electronic goods to tighter controls on foreign firms in the fast growing e-commerce market to help foster domestic companies and create jobs for millions of youth.
A delegation led by Assistant US Trade Representative (AUSTR) for South and Central Asia, Christopher Wilson, will meet Indian officials to try and re-start negotiations on tit-for-tat tariffs that were put on hold because of India’s election.
“Since India’s election period has now passed, USTR officials are visiting India for relationship-building with Indian government counterparts,” a USTR spokesperson said.
The USTR delegation is likely to meet Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal along with key trade officials on Friday. The delegation is also likely to meet top officials at the IT ministry.
Trump and Modi met in Osaka on the sidelines of a G20 summit in June where they agreed to build ties between the two countries and sort out thorny trade issues.
At Friday’s meeting, New Delhi expects US officials to push against India’s efforts to mandate foreign firms to store more of their data locally, an Indian government official said.
Washington is also expected to seek revisions to foreign investment rules for the e-commerce sector that have forced companies such as Walmart Inc’s Flipkart and Amazon.com Inc. to rework their business strategies in the country.
“The meeting with USTR was meant to set the tone for further talks after a positive G20 discussion. But Trump’s tweet has shown their intention is to continue with a tough stance,” another official said.
India’s trade ministry did not respond to a Reuters email seeking comments on the visit.
One concern among Indian policymakers is that the Trump administration may push for a free trade agreement with India that could dent India’s competitiveness, lead to a flurry of imports and hurt Modi’s “Make in India” plan.
In a recent meeting, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told trade ministry officials that “Trump is clearly preparing for a larger game, a larger opening,” according to one of the officials aware of the discussions.


Struggling WeWork mulls bailout deals with SoftBank, JP Morgan

Updated 14 October 2019

Struggling WeWork mulls bailout deals with SoftBank, JP Morgan

TOKYO: Under-pressure start-up WeWork is considering two huge bailout plans including a cash injection that could see Japanese investment titan SoftBank take control of the firm, according to reports.
The office-sharing giant had been on course for a massive initial public offering until last month when questions began to be asked over its governance and profit outlook.
The firm’s valuation plunged from $47 billion in January to less than $20 billion in September and the listing plans have been dropped, while co-founder Adam Neumann stepped down as chief executive.
With New York-based parent company We Co. not expected to push for the IPO this year, the cash-strapped firm is looking for a financial lifeline.
The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Bloomberg News cited unnamed sources close to the talks as saying SoftBank — the US firm’s biggest shareholder — had drawn up a proposal that gives it full control of WeWork.
The move would dilute the voting power of Neumann, who remains as chairman of the company he started in 2010 and also currently maintains control a majority of voting shares.
They also reported that WeWork is looking at a deal with Wall Street giant JP Morgan to raise $5 billion in debt, with the Times saying directors of We would be meeting as soon as Monday afternoon to discuss that.
“WeWork has retained a major Wall Street financial institution to arrange financing,” the Journal reported a company spokesman as saying.
“Approximately 60 financing sources have signed confidentiality agreements and are meeting with the company’s management and its bankers over the course of this past week and this coming week.”
The New York-based startup that launched in 2010 has touted itself as revolutionizing commercial real estate by offering shared, flexible workspace arrangements, and has operations in 111 cities in 29 countries.
However, the company, which lost $1.9 billion last year, has faced skepticism over its ability to make money, especially if the global economy slows significantly.