US slams India for trade gap, high duty

US trade secretary Wilbur Ross slammed India for its “unjustified” high import duties and “overly restrictive” entry barriers, while flagging concerns over the proposed data localisation norms for fintech and ecommerce companies such as Amazon.

“Currently, US businesses face significant market access barriers in India. These include both tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well as multiple practices and regulations that disadvantage foreign companies. India’s average applied tariff rate of 13.8%, and that remains the highest of any major world economy. The very highest,” he said. While reeling out the import duty on various products, Ross said: “These are not justified percentages. They are way too high.” The Donald Trump administration is pushing the Indian government to lower import duties on a host of products and the failure of the dialogue to settle thorny trade disputes has prompted the US to threaten a withdrawal of concessional duty access for several Indian products under the GSP programme.

“India is already the world’s third largest economy, and by 2030, it will become the world’s largest consumer market because of the rapid growth of the middle class. Yet, today, India is only the US’s 13th largest export market, due to overly restrictive market access barriers. Meanwhile, the US is India’s largest export market, accounting for something like 20% of the total. There is a real imbalance! And it’s an imbalance we must strive to counteract,” Ross said at a conference. He pointed out that unlike most other countries, the US also had a trade deficit with India on the services front.

While acknowledging that the Indian government’s plans offered a large opportunity to American companies, Ross went on to say that these corporations also needed to operate in a “transparent environment supported by the rule of law, and a level playing field”

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