India rejects US’ demand to lower duty on almonds

Economy


NEW DELHI: India has turned down the US’ demand to roll back higher duties on almonds, one of the 28 American goods on which New Delhi levied retaliatory tariffs last month. Sources in the know of the details said that New Delhi did not accept the relaxation sought by trade officials of the Donald Trump administration during their visit last week.

“India has not accepted the US demand for rollback of tariff on almonds imported from America,” said one source familiar with the development.

India will get an additional $217 million in revenue from the retaliatory tariffs of which the highest — $98.7 million — would come from import of almonds on which 17% additional duty is imposed. India had imported $625 million worth of almonds from the US in FY19.

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“They wanted a rollback of the tariffs on almonds but that can’t be done,” said another official aware of the details of the meeting that new assistant USTR for India Christopher Wilson and deputy assistant Brendan Lynch had with their counterparts in New Delhi. They also met commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal during the visit.

The US imposed a global additional tariff of 25% and 10% on import of steel and aluminium products, respectively, in March last year to which India responded by levying retaliatory tariffs on 28 products originating or exported from the US with effect from June 16. While India has been continuously in touch with the US on this issue as part of the ongoing bilateral trade dialogue, Washington did not accede to India’s request for withdrawal of these duties, Goyal said in the Lok Sabha last week. Simultaneously, the US also withdrew incentives to $6.3 billion of Indian exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme effective June 5.

Moreover, it has already dragged India to dispute at the World Trade Organization after New Delhi raised duties on the American goods citing “less favourable treatment” to its products.

KNOTTY ISSUES

The issue of tariff rollback could be taken up during Goyal’s visit to Washington next month when he is expected to meet USTR Robert E Lighthizer.

“The US is trying to extract concessions and relaxations from us on a piecemeal basis but all this has to be part of a larger package of talks. We also want them to roll back the duties they put on steel and aluminium. They imposed higher duties and removed GSP. So, it can’t be expected from India to give into their demands,” said a Delhi-based expert on trade issues.

Market access of key US products continue to be the sticking points. It is unlikely that New Delhi will make any concession with high priced medical equipment that the US wants to export to India. Further dairy products which have animal fat are unlikely to get the green signal from India. India has suggested some alternatives in the area of dairy products which the US is currently studying.



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