India may not be exempt from higher US steel import tariffs

New Delhi: India is unlikely to be granted an exemption from the higher tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium imposed by the US—its name is missing from a list of probable partner countries the US is considering for a reprieve.

During a briefing to the House of Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said his office is actively discussing exemptions at the request of the European Union (EU), Australia and Argentina, and similar talks are expected with a “great number” of other nations, including Brazil, for a possible exemption from the tariff hikes.

So far, US president Donald Trump has announced that Canada and Mexico, two of its closest allies will be exempted from the tariff hike.

“I believe that countries will get out as we come to agreement, that some countries will be in a position where the duties will not apply to them in the course of the negotiation,” he said.

India’s commerce secretary Rita Teaotia last week said India is quite surprised and disappointed by the US decision to include it in the list of countries that will face higher tariffs on their exports of steel and aluminium though it is not a major exporter of these items to the US. “Since the tariffs have been imposed on security grounds and some of the key trading partners have been excluded from that, on the basis of India’s strategic partnership with the US, we are certainly not a security threat to the US. So exemption to India should also be available on the same ground,” she added.

Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu has said his ministry will seek an exemption bilaterally.

What makes an exemption for India more unlikely is a 14 March statement by House Ways and Means Committee chairman and Republican Kevin Brady after the US challenged India’s export subsidy programmes at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“In responding to India’s prohibited subsidization of its steel industry in this manner, we prove the significance of the WTO dispute settlement process as a powerful, valuable, and appropriate tool in the Administration’s toolbox to address unfair practices that hurt our steel workers and companies. I join the Administration in calling on India to end its unfair trading immediately,” he added.

India, the world’s 14th-largest steel exporter, exported iron and steel worth $320 million and aluminium worth $350 million to the US in 2016-17. The US ranked seventh as a destination for India’s steel exports, accounting for 5% of exports.

An HSBC survey released on Wednesday showed Indian companies are most concerned about rising protectionism across the world with nine in ten companies holding the view against the global average of six in ten.livemint

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