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Trump demands India scrap ‘unacceptable’ tariffs just after Pompeo charm offensive

Trump demands India scrap ‘unacceptable’ tariffs just after Pompeo charm offensive
US President Donald Trump criticized India’s retaliatory tariffs against US goods, potentially undermining whatever progress was made in trade talks by his secretary of state during a recent visit to India.

Trump called the tariff bump – which targets 30 American products, including almonds, walnuts, apples, large motorcycles, and some metal and chemical products – “unacceptable,” and demanded its withdrawal, complaining that India has been treating the US unfavorably “for years.” He apparently intends to discuss the issue with Indian PM Narendra Modi during the upcoming G20 economic summit in Japan.

India has said the new duties, which amount to $241 million, are equivalent to Washington’s own recent increase in tariffs on Indian steel and aluminum, which were imposed in March – and has left the door open to further rate hikes, should they become necessary.

Earlier this month, the US removed India from the Generalized System of Preferences, repealing the duty-free status of $5.6 billion in Indian textiles, leather, gems, jewelry, and engineering products sold to the US under the program designed to help developing nations. Washington has increasingly applied economic pressure on India in an effort to narrow the trade deficit between the nations, which stood at $23 billion in 2017.

The two governments had a chance to discuss their trade differences this week as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Asian nation. Pompeo ironically left just hours before Trump unleashed his semi-confrontational tweet, after spending days explaining that the US and India are “friends who can help each other all around the world” even if it means New Delhi has to alienate regional and global partners.

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India would not cut off Venezuelan oil imports, or turn away Huawei from participation in its 5G network infrastructure, despite Washington’s request to do so. Neither would it scrap Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, which potentially subjects it to US sanctions. “We will do what is in our national interest,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated during a media conference with Pompeo.

Trump is expected to meet Modi in Osaka this weekend, when the Japanese city will hold a G20 summit. White House officials have confirmed that Trump’s G20 schedule includes a one-on-one meeting with the Indian leader, plus trilateral talks with the Indian PM and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

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