After raising the heat on India on high tariffs it charges on import of Harley-Davidson bikes, US president Donald Trump has now targeted India for its high import duties on paper and paper products.

“We charge other countries zero tariffs on foreign paper products. When Wisconsin companies exported abroad … China charged us big tariffs, India charged as big tariffs. Vietnam charged us massive tariffs. Unfair," Trump said at a re-election campaign rally in Wisconsin state, on Saturday evening, as reported by Hindustan Times on Monday.

India imported pulp of wood, paperboard, printed books, newsprint etc worth $1.08 billion from the US in calendar year 2018. During 2018, India’s exports to the US grew 12% to $51.4 billion while its imports rose 37.5% to $34.1 billion, thus narrowing down India’s trade surplus to $17.3 billion.

India has often countered allegations by Trump regarding India being a “tariff king", holding that its tariffs are within its commitments under the rules of World Trade Organisation.

Mint reported on 12 April quoting commerce ministry sources that even the US charges high tariffs on products such as tobacco, peanuts, and footwear. The highest tariffs imposed by Japan (736%), South Korea (807%), the US (350%), and Australia (163%) are much higher than that of India (150%), the commerce ministry official said quoting the World Tariff Profiles 2018, published by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

India imposes high duties on several items such as whiskey and wines (150%), automobiles (60-100%), mango juices (50%), and marble blocks (40%). India’s average tariff at 13.8%, maybe higher than that of the US’s 3.4%, but is almost at par with South Korea’s (13.7%).

“On the average, India’s tariff levels are significantly below our bound rates and are comparable to the tariffs of the most open developing countries and even some developed ones," a commerce ministry official said speaking under condition of anonymity.

India’s applied tariffs are within the bound rates agreed to by all WTO members, which vary for developed and developing nations. Developing countries enjoy longer phase-out periods and higher bound rates of tariffs, a concession they received in return for ceding ground on intellectual property rights and services to the developed countries when WTO rules were formulated.

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