India Joins China, Europe in Hitting Back at Trump on Trade

(Bloomberg) -- India raised tariffs on a slew of items in retaliation to U.S. imposing higher levies on some products shipped from the South Asian nation, a move that echoes steps taken by China and the European Union.

The import duty on chickpeas and Bengal gram, or chana, has been increased to 70 percent and will be effective from Aug. 4, the ministry of finance said in a notification dated June 20. The tariffs have also been raised on other items including walnuts, almonds, boric acid, apples, diagnostic reagents and some hot-rolled coil products.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration’s tit-for-tat move comes amid a trade war between the U.S. and its key trading partners.

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered identification of $200 billion in Chinese imports for additional tariffs of 10 percent -- with another $200 billion after that if Beijing retaliates. He’s already promised to place tariffs of 25 percent on $50 billion, starting July 6 with an initial $34 billion worth of imports. China on Thursday said it is “fully prepared” to respond to any new list of U.S. tariffs.

“The increase in tariffs is a message to the U.S. administration to take concerns of other nations seriously,” said Sachin Chaturvedi, director general at New Delhi-based think tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries. “Now this is unlikely to remain confined to a tariff war and will escalate to non-tariff measures as well.”

‘Being a Bully’

India alleges that Trump’s 25 percent and 10 percent duties on steel and aluminum, respectively, violate the global trading rules and have hurt its exports. India’s trade surplus -- merchandise and services -- with the U.S. stood at $28 billion in 2017 -- marginally lower than the $30.8 billion in 2016. The U.S. cited this as one of the reasons for naming India a potential currency manipulator.

Higher import duties by the U.S. could hurt India’s exports and economic growth, further pressuring current account at a time when foreign investors are exiting emerging market stocks and bonds for safer haven assets.

The two are embroiled on trade issues on more than one front. The South Asian nation is trying to overhaul its export subsidy program after the Trump administration complained to the World Trade Organization that India’s export subsidies are hurting American companies.

“The U.S. is being a bully right now and the only way out is to come to the negotiating table,” said Biswajit Dhar, a professor at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University. “Responses of partner nations are adequate enough to force the U.S. to do that.”

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