U.S. President Donald Trump looked set to open a new front in his trade wars with a plan to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to US$5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States, Reuters reported.
Monday’s move comes as trade tensions between the United States and India mount. The United States is trying to rework pacts with a number of other countries as well, including China. Trump has said weak deals have cost millions of American jobs and has vowed to cut U.S. trade deficits.
India played down the impact, saying it was keeping retaliatory tariffs out of its talks with the United States, but the opposition could seize on the issue to embarrass Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections this year.
Trump has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs, and U.S. trade officials said scrapping the concessions would take at least 60 days after notifications to Congress and the Indian government.
“I am taking this step because, after intensive engagement between the United States and the government of India, I have determined that India has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets of India,” Trump was quoted as telling congressional leaders in a letter.
India is the world’s largest beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which dates from the 1970s, and ending its participation would be the strongest punitive action the United States has taken against the country since Trump took office.
India has also been threatening to impose higher tariffs on some U.S. products like apples over recent months, and at present they are due to come into effect in early April.
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