US President Donald Trump on Monday slammed India for imposing “tremendously high tariffs” on American products and said that New Delhi wanted to have a trade deal with the US primarily to keep him happy.
Trump’s charges against the alleged high Indian tariffs, for the second time in a few days, came during his White House news conference where he announced a new trade deal with neighbouring Mexico and Canada.
As he announced the key elements of the US-Mexico and Canada Agreement or USMCA, Trump listed out at the trade deals that are under negotiations, including with Japan, European Union, China and India.
Trump described India as a “tariff king” as he reiterated his allegations that New Delhi has a high tariff rate on various American products.
Trump alleged that India puts “tremendously high tariffs” on American products and raked up the issue of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
“When we send Harley Davidson motorcycle, and other things to India, they charge us very very high tariffs. I have spoken to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and he is going to reduce them substantially,” he said.
Trump said the relationship with both India as well as the country’s Prime Minister Modi “is great”.
He, however, rued that no one from the previous regimes had ever spoken with the Indians.
“Nobody ever spoke to these people (Indians). He (Modi) said, nobody ever spoke to me. I am not trying to be overly dramatic. We have had presidents of the United States and (US) Trade Representatives, they never spoke to India. Brazil is another one,” Trump said, adding that “they charge us whatever they want”.
Noting that the tariff on motorcycles was 100 per cent, the president said it was like a barrier.
India has already reduced it substantially, but it is still too high, Trump said, adding that who is going to buy it as it costs so much. He also warned against imposing similar tariffs on the import of Indian products.
Trump said India wanted to have a trade deal with the US and the negotiations are being carried out by the US Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer.
When US officials asked Indians why they want to have a trade deal with America, Indian officials told them that they want to keep the US President happy, Trump told reporters.
“India, which is the tariff king, they called us and they said, ‘we want to start negotiations immediately’,” Trump said.
Thereafter, he referred to a conversation that Lighthizer had with the Indian officials. “When Bob Lighthizer said, ‘What happened? He would never do this.’ They said, ‘No, we want to keep your president happy.’ Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that nice? It’s true. They have to keep us happy, because they understand that we’re wise to what’s been happening,” Trump claimed.
“India charges tariffs of 100 per cent, and then if we want to put a tariff of 25 per cent on, people will call from Congress, ‘But that’s not free trade.’ And I’d look back to people and say, ‘Where do these people come from? Where do they come from?'” Trump said.
“So because of the power of tariffs and the power that we have with tariffs, we, in many cases, won’t even have to use them. That’s how powerful they are, and how good they are. But in many cases, we’re not going to have to use them,” he added.
On Saturday, Trump had said that India wants to have a trade deal with the US because it does not want him to impose tariffs on their products.
Trump’s remarks came days after Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott returned from India where he had detailed discussion with senior Indian officials on bilateral trade and a possible trade deal between the two countries.