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India, US resume trade talks as tariffs war heats up

July 12, 2019

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US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, left, arrives with Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Christopher Wilson, center, and Brendan Lynch, right, for a meeting with officials of the Indian Ministry for Trade and Industry at the parliament house in New Delhi, India.—AP
US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, left, arrives with Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Christopher Wilson, center, and Brendan Lynch, right, for a meeting with officials of the Indian Ministry for Trade and Industry at the parliament house in New Delhi, India.—AP

The United States and Indian trade teams started negotiations on Friday as tensions mount over protectionist measures taken by both sides.

While India and the US have become increasingly close in recent years, US President Donald Trump took a swipe at the giant South Asian nation on Twitter this week, saying that India's tariffs were “no longer acceptable”.

Washington removed India from a list of countries that got duty-free access for more than $6 billion of imports to the US earlier this year. The move came on the back of higher US tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium.

In response, an angry New Delhi imposed higher duties on 28 US products including almonds, apples and walnuts last month.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier criticised India's trade policies and tariff rules, saying they posed a big impediment to attracting foreign investment.

As the sparring between the two sides heated up, Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the talks when they met in Osaka, on the sidelines of June's G20 Summit.

Assistant US Trade Representative Christopher Wilson met Indian commerce industry officials in Delhi on Friday, ahead of a meeting with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, ministry sources said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday that all decisions in the talks would aim to keep relations “positive”.

“We have to keep in mind the bigger picture and within that bigger picture try to address all the issues which are on the table,” Kumar told a briefing.

India-US trade was worth $142.1bn in 2018 with the US $24.2bn in deficit. The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum has predicted trade will go up to $238bn by 2025.