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India weighs retaliatory tariffs on US imports worth $10.6 billion


New Delhi: India is likely to impose retaliatory tariffs on $10.6 billion worth of goods imported from the US, after the Trump administration decided to scrap duty benefits on $5.6 billion worth of exports from India by May, following the collapse of trade negotiations.


In June 2018, India had decided to levy higher tariffs on products such as almonds, apples and phosphoric acid in retaliation to the US unilaterally raising customs duties on certain steel and aluminium products. However, India deferred implementation of the decision as talks were going on between the two sides for a trade package.


The next deadline for the tariffs to kick in is 1 April.


During the recently concluded Trade Policy Forum talks, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had also raised concerns regarding new trade barriers created by India, hinting at the stringent e-commerce rules that have affected US companies, including Amazon.com Inc. and Flipkart owner Walmart Inc.


India’s commerce secretary, Anup Wadhawan, in a hurriedly-called press briefing, said that disproportionate demands from the US led to the collapse of talks, although India was ready to offer the US greater market access in agricultural products.


Wadhawan said the US brought new issues to the negotiating table, apart from medical devices and dairy products on a “self-initiated basis".


These include issues related to market access for various agriculture, animal husbandry and, information and communications technology products, including mobile phones.


“India was able to offer a very meaningful way forward on almost all the US requests. In a few instances, specific US requests were not found reasonable and doable at this time by the departments concerned, in light of public welfare concerns reflective of India’s developing country status and its national interest," Wadhawan said.


The official cited earlier said the US demanded reversal of the price caps on coronary stents and knee transplants immediately under a new trade margins regime, which India could not agree to, given the public interest involved at a time of impending general elections.


Former trade secretary Rajeev Kher said India should not subordinate its policymaking to a third country. “The US can’t bully us into adopting an e-commerce policy, which is contrary to our interest, if that is the objective. Our exporters need to be more competitive in any case," he added.