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India Joins Countries Announcing Retaliatory Tariffs on US Products

Retaliating against the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, India has raised duties on 29 U.S. goods worth about $240 million.

New Delhi made the announcement Thursday after Washington ignored its request to be exempted from the tariffs because its exports were tiny compared to others, such as China and the European Union. India accounts for about 2 percent of American imports of steel and aluminum, or $1.5 billion in sales.

India is the latest country to hit back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff increases on steel and aluminum imports.

Among the items on which India will impose higher tariffs are agricultural products such as almonds, apples, walnuts, chickpeas and lentils, as well as some stainless steel products. India is the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. almonds and among the biggest importers of apples. The new tariffs will go into effect August 4.

New Delhi imposed the retaliatory tariffs amid worries that the U.S. might target India’s more significant exports, such as pharmaceuticals.

“It is an appropriate signal,” said Rajiv Kumar of the government’s policy research organization, NITI Aayog. “I am hopeful that all this will die down.”

Although the Indian levies on American products are small compared with those involved in the U.S.-China spat, the trade friction between the two democracies signals discord and uncertainty at a time when they are developing a closer strategic partnership.

India is among the countries named by Trump as following trade practices unfair to the U.S.

Speaking at the Group of Seven summit in Canada earlier this month, he said, “This isn’t just G-7. I mean, we have India, where some of the tariffs are 100 percent. A hundred percent. And we charge nothing. We can’t do that.”

Trump has repeatedly said India imposes a punitive import duty on Harley-Davidson motorcycles whereas the U.S. has much lower duties on motorcycles imported from India. His complaint prompted New Delhi to cut the import duty from 75 percent to 50 percent on high-end bikes earlier this year.

For the time being, India has kept high-end motorcycles off the list of items selected for higher tariffs.

The U.S. tariffs and counter-tariffs are “opening a Pandora’s box whereby countries will impose, retaliate, somebody will act, somebody will react. This is going to be a process that will pull everybody down,” said economist Ram Upendra Das, who heads the Center for Regional Trade in New Delhi, a research organization of India’s Commerce Ministry. He calls it “a race to the bottom.”

A trade deficit in New Delhi’s favor of about $30 billion in their annual bilateral trade of approximately $125 billion has long been an irritant for Washington. India is on the Trump administration list of countries with which it had a large deficit.

Officials from New Delhi and Washington are expected to hold trade talks next week to try to bridge their differences.

But amid growing fears that the rising wave of protectionism signaled by the U.S. tariffs threatens emerging economies like India, economists are confident that the trade disputes will be short-lived. “It has to get corrected. We will have to see how long it takes,” said economist Das.

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