Govt hits US goods with higher duties in tariff row
June 22 2018 12:31 AM

Reuters/New Delhi

India, the world’s biggest buyer of US almonds, raised import duties on the commodity by 20%, a government order said, joining the European Union and China in retaliating against President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on steel and aluminium.
New Delhi, incensed by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from the new tariffs, also imposed a 120% duty on the import of walnuts in the strongest action yet against the US.
The move to increase tariffs from August 4 will also cover a slew of other farm, steel and iron products.
It came a day after the European Union said it would begin charging 25% import duties on a range of US products from today, in response to the new US tariffs.
India is by far the largest buyer of US almonds, purchasing over half of all US almond shipments in 2017.
A kilogram of shelled almonds will attract duty of as much as Rs120 ($1.76) instead of the current Rs100, the commerce ministry said.
Last month, New Delhi sought an exemption from the new US tariffs, saying its steel and aluminium exports were small in relation to other suppliers.
But its request was ignored, prompting India to launch a complaint against the US at the World Trade Organisation.
“India’s tariff retaliation is within the discipline of trade tariffs of the World Trade Organisation,” said steel secretary Aruna Sharma.
Trade differences between India and the US have been rising since US President Donald Trump took office.
Bilateral trade rose to $115bn in 2016, but the Trump administration wants to reduce its $31bn deficit with India, and is pressing New Delhi to ease trade barriers.
Earlier this year, Trump called out India for its duties on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to cut the import duty to 50% from 75% for the high-end bikes.
But that has not satisfied Trump, who pointed to zero duties for Indian bikes sold in the US and said he would push for a “reciprocal tax” against countries, including US allies, that levy tariffs on American products.
In the tariff rates issued late on Wednesday, the commerce ministry named some varieties of almonds, apples, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and artemia that would carry higher import taxes.
Most of these are purchased from the US. Walnuts have gone from 100% duty to 120%, the government note said. The government also raised duties on some grades of iron and steel products.
In May it had given a list of products to the WTO that it said could incur higher tariffs.
An official from the steel ministry said at the time that the new tariffs were intended to show displeasure at the US action.
“It is an appropriate signal. I am hopeful that all of this (trade war) will die down. In my view this is not in the interest of the global economy,” said Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of the Indian government’s policy thinktank Niti Aayog.
Rising trade tensions between the US and some major economies have threatened to derail global growth.
Officials from India and the US are expected to hold talks on June 26-27 to discuss trade issues, local daily Times of India reported yesterday citing Press Trust of India.
The US commerce department on Wednesday announced a preliminary finding that imports of large-diameter welded pipe from China, India, South Korea and Turkey were subsidised by those countries, and said it was imposing preliminary duties that could top 500%.
In a separate trade dispute, Trump threatened on Monday to hit $200bn of Chinese imports with 10% tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $50bn in imports.
The United States has accused China of stealing US intellectual property, a charge Beijing denies.

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