In the dark world of global trade and finance, it is a battle of nerves and perceptions that dictate policies. Otherwise, there’s no reason why the Donald Trump’s Republican administration in the US articulates the way it does and thumbs a nose at India on the trade and investment front. Trade and investment linked irritants between the two countries have the potential to singe the otherwise excellent political relations between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi. Given that both leaders catapulted to power on the ultra-nationalist wave, they have a point to prove before their respective constituencies. This seems to have fanned protectionist measures, especially so in the case of US. And, when India retaliates to protect its defensive interests, there’s a long groan from White House. This schism needs to end and right now. Otherwise, it could overthrow the balance achieved in bilateral relations that are wide-ranging and strategic in nature. Otherwise, how does one explain US President Trump’s grouse seeking a cut on duties levied by India on high-end bikes? In particular, President Trump has sought winding down of duties on Harley Davidson’s bikes in India? Is it the job of US President to lobby for Harley Davidson? If US companies like Harley Davidson were to flourish and embellish their business, then let it manufacture its high-end bikes in India taking advantage of ‘Make in India’ campaign. Free market economics dictate that companies go where the market exists for products and services. That’s what Harley Davidson should do without seeking exceptions. Conversely, India has done the exact same thing by hiking duties on high end phones and luxury cars in its last budget, walking the road to protectionism. In fact, the world over, globalisation is being replaced by protectionist policies. Similar is the case of Apple Inc that proposes to set up a production facility in India to rollout its iconic i-phones. Why should India wind down its tariff lines to make way for cheaply rolled out i-phone components from Chinese facilities? If Apple Inc has the competencies; let it not cite frivolous issues to delay roll out of the full range of mobility products. Case of Ford and European carmaker Volkswagen was no different while they move heaven and earth seeking reduction in duties on automobile components. If India was expected to lower tariff barriers, then Trump administration and other European countries should take the initiative to withdraw all non-tariff barriers set up on movement of high-end technology professionals from countries like India. For instance, why’s it that US administration slapped new norms to prove that H1 B visa worker was placed at a third party location on non-speculative, specific and specialty assignment? Tripling visa fees or not extending temporary visa workers were ploys by Trump administration to restrict movement of people for work purposes. US seem to be conveniently ignoring contribution of Indian workers to its economy. Trade and investment relations between US and India cannot be one-way street as Trump administration expects it to be. It’s always dictated by priorities and possibilities for both parties. Instead of making a hue and cry on each item, Trump must dispatch a trade delegation
to iron out the differences. A US State Department spokesperson in Washington wants India to lower trade barriers, which were holding back economic ties. The US Congress has been pushing over the past year for greater pressure on India to dismantle economic barriers, and now House Republicans have raised the issue of the new round of duties with New Delhi.