India levies retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products

Finally, after deferring retaliatory tariffs on the US for months, India has decided to impose higher tariffs on 28 American products including almonds, apples and walnut effective June 16, the government said in a notification.

The retaliatory tariffs, triggered by the US announcing higher duties on Indian steel and aluminium last year, were deferred multiple times in view of the trade dialogue between the two countries.

The new tariffs are expected to bring in $220 million of revenue to India as the government dropped one item- artemia-from the list.

New Delhi had decided to levy higher tariffs following Washington’s withdrawal of preferential benefits for $6.35 billion of Indian exports early this month. Washington had withdrawn duty-free benefits for Indian exports under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) effective June 5.

India had repeatedly postponed the imposition of retaliatory tariffs of $235 million on import of US goods worth $1.4 billion since they were first announced on June 20, 2018. Key items imported by India from the US include almond and fresh apples worth $645 million and $165 million, respectively.

India’s move comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G20 summit on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan. Trump has often termed India a “tariff king” and repeatedly pointed to the 50% duty that India imposes on imports of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit New Delhi on June 25-26, on his way to the G20 Summit, to hold bilateral discussions with his Indian counterpart, external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

Speaking at the 44th annual meeting of the US-India Business Council in Washington DC last week, Pompeo said they may discuss “tough topics”, including the recent GSP programme decision. “We remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies,” Pompeo said. The trade ministry’s move, which was cleared by the external affairs ministry, comes a day after a senior Trump administration official raised “serious concerns” about India’s planned acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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