Diplomatic US Reaction to India’s Retaliatory Tariffs

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Washington, DC – The United States on Monday (June 17) gave a subdued reaction to India’s Ministry of Finance announcing in the “public interest,” new duties, some as high as 70 percent, in response to Washington’s refusal to exempt Delhi from higher taxes on steel and aluminum imports.

Replying to a request from India America Today (IAT) for a comment, a State Department spokesperson provided a statement on background, “We are aware of an announcement by India’s Ministry of Finance regarding tariffs on US exports.”

The statement noted, “India is one of our closest strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region. The US-India partnership stands upon a shared commitment to democratic values and the rule of law,” adding, “The United States is India’s top market for exports, and US companies see great opportunity in India.”

The spokesperson referred IAT to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) for further comment, but the USTR responded via email saying, “the State Department has provided US reaction. USTR has no further comment at this time.”

On Sunday (June 16) India hit 28 US products with retaliatory tariffs, making consumables like almonds, apples, walnuts and pulses costlier to import.

Speaking recently at the India Ideas Summit, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said, “I do hope, and remain open – and 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 , and private sector companies.”

Noting that, “US-India bilateral trade reached $142 billion just last year, a seven-fold increase since 2001,” Pompeo quoted from Prime Minister Modi utterances in his latest campaign, “Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai,” “Modi makes it possible.”

Secretary Pompeo, who is heading to India on June 24, sounded optimistic saying, “I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible between our two peoples.”

However, in a slowly escalating trade war, US President Donald Trump withdrew India’s preferential trade treatment under America’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), thus hitting $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports – previously duty-free in the US. The move is the latest push by the Trump administration to redress what it considers to be unfair trading relationships with other countries.

President Trump also threatened to impose sanctions if India purchases oil from Iran and if it goes ahead with plans to buy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

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Tejinder Singh, Editor, India America Today & White House Correspondent

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