India to approach USTR against steel, aluminium tariffs

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 15, 2018 Published on March 15, 2018

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia (file photo)   -  THE HINDU

We’re hardly a ‘security’ threat: Commerce Secretary

Spelling out reasons why India doesn’t fit into the category of ‘security threat’, the Commerce Ministry will send a communication to the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office, insisting that it remove India’s name from the list of countries penalised with higher import tariffs on steel and aluminium.

“The fact that India has been a long-standing security and economic partner to the US, that US exports to India increased $4 billion last year, and that Indian export of steel and aluminium to the US is much lower than some of the exempted countries, show that India can’t pose a security threat,” Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia told BusinessLine.

India will flag its concerns in the form of a formal communication to the USTR office and see how it responds to that, she added.

Last week, US President Donald Trump signed two proclamations that levied a 25 per cent tariff on steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imported from its trading partners. But it decided to exempt Canada, the largest exporter of steel to the US, and Mexico, for the present. The US is hoping to renegotiate with these two nations as part of NAFTA trade concessions.

Following a telephonic conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump said the two countries are working on a speedy security agreement so that tariffs do not need to be imposed on steel and aluminium from Australia.

“It is very clear that the imposition of higher tariffs by the US has been quite arbitrary and it is open to giving country-specific exemptions. The only way to deal with it at the moment is to have bilateral talks. That is exactly what India is set to do,” said another government official.

But if talks fail and India does not get the expected response from the US, it may approach the WTO against the tariff hike on the grounds that these are discriminatory, and not applied uniformly by the US on all its trade partners.

“Right now we are focused on sorting out the matter bilaterally. However, we could always approach the WTO if the bilateral option fails,” the second official said.

India exports very little steel and aluminium to the US, accounting for less than 3 per cent of its total exports to that country.

Published on March 15, 2018
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