India: Country meets criteria for preferential trade status, US should reconsider

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale Thursday said India met the criteria under the Generalised System of Preferences. (File)

Amid trade tensions between India and US, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale Thursday said India met the criteria under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a concession that the Donald Trump administration withdrew in June, and asked Washington to take a call on the matter.

"Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a unilateral decision, given by countries to other countries based on certain criteria. We are a developing country, we meet those criteria. I do not recall our ever stating that we are not interested in GSP," Gokhale said at a media briefing.

In June, the US withdrew duty-free benefits accorded to India under the country s Generalised System of Preferences Programme (GSP).

Underscoring the importance of trade concessions for the Indian industry, Gokhale said, "The US unilaterally withdrew that concession from us, we believe that GSP is something which is important for our industry but ultimately it is a matter for the US to take a call on."

With exports worth over $6.3 billion under GSP in 2018-19, India was the largest beneficiary of the scheme. After the US decision in June, India retaliated a few weeks later by increasing the tariffs on 28 products imported from the US, including high-value products like almonds and fresh apples a move that the US has disputed at World Trade Organization (WTO).

The India-US trade tensions have been building up over the last two years. The US last year hiked tariffs on its steel and aluminium imports, a move that hit Indian exports and prompted it to approach the World Trade Organisation s (WTO) dispute settlement body.

The US raised issues with India s moves to slash the maximum retail prices of essential medical devices and demands that dairy product exporters certify their produce was derived from animals, not fed food containing internal organs. Trump has long been critical of Indian tariffs on products like Harley Davidson motorcycles, at one point even calling the country a tariff king .