India postpones imposition of higher duties on US products again

New Delhi: India has for the third time deferred from imposing higher custom duties on 29 US products by another 45 days, until 17 December the Finance Ministry has said in its recent notification.

The Commerce Ministry had asked its Finance counterpart to extend the deadline for the rollout of duty hike further. In June, India decided to impose retaliatory tariffs from 4 August.

But it was extended by another 45 days till 18 September and then again till 2 November. As part of imposition of higher import duties, New Delhi has notified higher tariffs on several products.

The duty hike move by India was in retaliation to US President Donald Trump’s 9 March decision to impose heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items.

Senior officials of India and the US are in discussions to finalise a trade deal. Both the sides holding two track discussions – to increase trade in short and medium term, and identify long term trade potentials.

India is pressing for exemption from high duty imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products, resumption of export benefits to certain domestic products under their generalised system of preferences (GSP), greater market access for its products from sectors, including agriculture, automobile, auto components and engineering.

As many as 3,500 Indian products from sectors such as chemicals and engineering get duty-free access to the US market under the GSP, introduced in 1976. On the other hand, the US is demanding greater market access for its farm and manufacturing products, including medical devices. India’s exports to the US in 2017-18 stood at $47.9 billion, while imports were $26.7 billion. The trade balance is in favour of India.

Meanwhile, the US on Thursday ended duty-free concessions on import of about 50 Indian products, mostly from handloom and agriculture sectors. These goods were so far availing duty-free access to the US market under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

In April, the US announced eligibility review of India for the GSP. According to the USTR, the total US imports under GSP in 2017 was $21.2 billion, of which India was the biggest beneficiary with $5.6 billion, followed by Thailand ($4.2 billion) and Brazil ($2.5 billion).

These will see hike
Import duty on walnut is to be hiked to 120 per cent from 30 per cent, duty on chickpeas, Bengal gram (chana) and masur dal will be hiked to 70 per cent from 30 per cent. Levy on lentils will be hiked to 40 per cent from 30 per cent. Other products which would attract higher duties include boric acid, phosphoric acid, diagnostic reagent, flat rolled products of iron, certain flat rolled products of stainless steel.


Waiver from Iran sanctions granted
The US has broadly agreed to grant India a waiver from Iran sanctions, which would allow Indian oil companies to continue to import about 1.25 million tonnes of oil a month till March from Tehran.

The US plans to re-impose oil-related sanctions on Iran on 4 November to choke the Islamic Republic’s biggest source of income and pressure it to renegotiate a new nuclear deal. Any country, or company, trading with Iran without US consent after sanctions kick-off risks getting cut off from the American financial system.

India had imported about 22 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2017-18 and planned to raise that to about 30 million tonnes in 2018-19. But, as a condition of waiver, Indian oil firms will reduce their imports significantly, the source said.

Indian companies can import 1.25 million tonnes a month up to March 2019, the same as they ordered for October and November, the source said. State oil firms are yet to decide on how this quantum will be split between them. A waiver will come as a big relief to Indian Oil and MRPL, the two largest Iranian oil consumers.


NT Bureau