New Delhi: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday took aim at India and China, saying the two were no longer “developing nations" and were “taking advantage" of the tag given by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Championing his “America First" policy, Trump told a gathering in Pennsylvania that WTO viewed certain countries like China and India as “growing," according to a report by news agency PTI.
Trump said India and China had “grown", warning that the US will not let such countries take advantage of WTO.
“We’re not letting that happen any more... Everybody is growing but us," he said.
Trump’s latest comments come as trade minister Piyush Goyal is set to visit Washington next month that could see the two sides work out a deal to narrow the US trade deficit with India. Bilateral trade in 2018 stood at an estimated $142.1 billion.
While Trump has previously targeted India— describing it as “tariff king" for imposing high duties on US goods—this is the first time he has named India and China together in the WTO context.
“They (India and China) were taking advantage of us for years and years," Trump said in his speech, referring to global trade rules under which developing countries claim entitlement to longer time frame for the imposition of safeguards, transition periods and softer tariff cuts, besides procedural advantages for WTO disputes and the ability to avail themselves of certain export subsidies.
Trump expressed hope that WTO will treat the US “fairly".
Watch: Trump's latest trade swipe: India, China accused of taking advantage at WTO
The US and China are engaged in a brutal trade war for almost a year, with the US being the first to impose tariffs on Chinese goods to press demands for an end to policies that Washington says hurt US companies competing with Chinese firms. China responded with its own tit-for-tat tariffs on US goods.
In India’s case, the US has imposed tariffs on steel imports from India and ended preferential access for Indian products. In retaliation, India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 products exported from the US in June.
Officials in New Delhi noted that Trump’s speech had come just ahead of the US election season, when he will formally launch his re-election bid for the November 2020 polls.
According to former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, Trump’s comments were “in line with his declared thinking that WTO gives developing country status to countries that don’t merit it".
“This is the first time that Trump has mentioned India in this context," he said, adding that the comments also represent Trump-led attacks on WTO itself and the call for it to be reformed along US preferences. “It is an attack on the structure of the Indian economy," said Sibal. “The primary aim is to get rid of differential status and responsibilities between developed and developing countries not only in the WTO, but also in other international negotiations," added Sibal.