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Obama wishes Modi happy Diwali through newly-established hotline

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Washington: Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish him a happy Diwali, US President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the importance of the US-India partnership in addressing both regional and global issues.

A White House readout of the call on Tuesday said Obama spoke to Modi by phone “to review joint efforts on key areas of bilateral cooperation and to preview global issues ahead of the upcoming G-20 summit, East Asia Summit, and Paris Climate Conference.”

“Noting that the conversation represented the first use of the new secure line between the two leaders, President Obama wished the Prime Minister a happy Diwali and reaffirmed the importance of the US-India partnership in addressing both regional and global issues.”

“Both leaders shared their perspectives on developments in South Asia and discussed the progress they have made on shared economic and security priorities, including implementation of the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region and addressing the global challenge of climate change,” it added.

Earlier, in New Delhi, Modi tweeted after the call: “A short while ago @POTUS (President of the United States) called. We exchanged Diwali greetings. This was our first conversation through the newly-established hotline.”

“President Obama & I look forward to meeting in Turkey during the G20 Summit,” to be held on Nov 15-16, he said.

Modi said President Obama and he “discussed a wide range of other issues as well. It was good knowing how @WhiteHouse is marking Diwali.”

The G20 summit is being held after the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals agenda at the UN and ahead of the climate change summit in Paris on Nov 30-Dec 1.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Find Out Those 28 US Goods on Which India Increases Tariffs Amid Trade Spat

The retaliatory move came days after Washington removed New Delhi from a list of countries that have preferential access to its market

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FILE - Containers are piled up at a terminal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, India, June 29, 2017. India’s commerce ministry says it will not try to hold onto its preferential zero-tariffs status with the United States. VOA

India has hiked tariffs on 28 goods imported from the United States as a trade spat between the two countries intensifies. The retaliatory move came days after Washington removed New Delhi from a list of countries that have preferential access to its market.

“India has put its cards on the table,” says trade expert Biswajit Dhar at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “The U.S. has upped the ante and it is also threatening to take further action. This required India to respond.”

The trade spat has escalated ahead of a visit later this month to New Delhi by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has pushed India to allow American companies more access to its markets and to lower barriers.

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FILE – A female laborer winnows almonds inside a small-scale factory unit in New Delhi, Jan. 15, 2011. India is by far the largest buyer of U.S. almonds. VOA

Experts fear the growing tensions could cast a shadow over a deepening India-U.S. strategic partnership that aims at countering China’s growing influence.

The American goods that attract higher tariffs beginning Sunday include almonds, apples, walnuts, chickpeas and lentils, as well as some stainless steel products. New Delhi is the largest importer of U.S. almonds and the second largest buyer of apples. The total impact of the Indian tariffs is estimated to be about $240 million.

Increase deferred several times

The hike in duties by New Delhi was announced a year ago in retaliation for Washington’s imposition of higher tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, but deferred several times as both sides held talks to bridge their differences.

But India went ahead after the U.S. earlier this month imposed another punitive measure: removing New Delhi from a trade program to aid the economies of developing countries. Washington said the preferential status was revoked because India has failed to provide adequate access to its markets for U.S. firms. It will impact Indian imports worth $5.6 billion. New Delhi was the largest beneficiary of the Generalized Systems of Preferences program. India’s commerce ministry has called the decision unfortunate.

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A shop in New Delhi sells almonds and walnuts, which are among the 29 U.S. products on which India has announced retaliatory tariffs starting August 4. India is the largest market for U.S. almonds. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

US markets

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly named India as one of the countries that follow trade practices unfair to the United States. Washington wants New Delhi to address a trade imbalance, the $142 billion bilateral trade is skewed in New Delhi’s favor by about $30 billion.

Dhar says among the sticking points are the demands by Washington that India lower tariffs on dairy and poultry to encourage U.S. agricultural imports. But these are areas where New Delhi faces domestic challenges.

“India is battling with this very large population of small and marginal farmers. It is very difficult for India to drop tariffs specially as we know U.S. agricultural products are being subsidized,” according to Dhar.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, June 12, 2019. VOA

The United States is also concerned about recent rules that it says adversely impact the operations of its e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Walmart in India. Even though the moves by New Delhi and Washington signal that each is taking a tougher stand, they could also push both sides to more serious negotiations to resolve their differences.

ALSO READ: Trump Announces Migration Deal with Mexico, Averting Threatened Tariffs

“We remain open to dialogue and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people,” Pompeo said at policy speech at the U.S. India Business Council in Washington on Thursday. He said that countries that have provided American companies access to their markets have seen “real opportunity.”

Pompeo will in New Delhi on June 25-26 to hold talks with his Indian counterpart. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Trump are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan later this month. (VOA)