India to hunt finish of commerce wars with US

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 26

While regional security issues and sale of defence equipment will continue to occupy prominent space in India’s confabulations with the new US administration, it will seek to restore H-1B visas and roll back trade disputes that have lingered unresolved through the four years of the Trump regime.

India will be seeking the restoration of the H-1B visa program that has been availed by lakhs of Indians in the past but was suspended by President Donald Trump on grounds that they were taking away jobs meant for locals.

US President-elect Joe Biden, during his election campaign, had promised to reverse many restrictions imposed by Trump on documented migration.

In this regard, India will again take up the issue of “totalisation agreement” which provides social security protection.

India will be seeking to restore the GSP, a scheme for duty-free tariff treatment of over 10 per cent of its exports to the US, estimated at nearly Rs 50,000 crore. What were zero duty exports now attract one to seven per cent cess on the top 15 GSP items.

India’s walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) partnership signed between 15 countries will come in useful in parrying US demands for accommodation in agricultural trade, removal of price controls on high-end medical devices and lower tariffs in industrial sectors, said sources.

India had abstained from signing the pact on fears that agricultural and dairy products will flood the domestic market. It also had reservations on lowering tariffs due to the Atmanirbhar Bharat policy and lax rules of origin that could benefit China.

For a return to the GSP arrangement, India could instead reduce the retaliatory tariff it had imposed on US exports of nuts, apples and chemicals, said sources here.

These measures could also see both sides rolling back retaliatory tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. The US had first imposed these tariffs on several countries, including India.

New Delhi will point out that while many countries, including China, had retaliated immediately, India had waited for a year before imposing matching tariffs.

Though the presumptive Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Michele Flournoy have close ties to the American military-industrial complex, the Indian expectation is they could be sympathetic to India sourcing its defence requirements from Russia.

A law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), was passed with bipartisan support to penalise countries purchasing military hardware from India. Trump had acted under the law only against China but not against India and Turkey, which have contracted for the Russian air defence system S-400.

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