Howdy Modi: Vote Bank Politics Or Move To Strengthen Indo-US Ties?

Monday, 28 September 2020



Howdy Modi: Vote Bank Politics Or Move To Strengthen Indo-US Ties?

Rifa Deka | September 28, 2019 16:48 hrs

US president Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to India as the ‘Tariff King’, despite India only trying to take the right steps to protect the interest of its domestic sectors. India does have relatively high import duties but so do countries like Japan, USA, South Korea, the European Union and a few others.

The United States itself imposes very high import duties - as much as 164 percent on products like peanuts! The allegations, under no circumstances, are right as our country only has a rationalized import duty structure, ideal for any developing nation. In fact, they themselves must restructure their duties to justify being a developed nation themselves.

The Geneva based multilateral body that frames Global Trade norms – The World Trade Organisation with 164 member countries, provides countries protection so that hosts can increase duties as and when required to protect domestic producers and to ensure that there is no ‘bullying’ by countries holding superior economic and trade power.

Countries like Japan and South Korea levy duties as high as 700 to 800 percent on some commodities which are imported but tariffs as low as 150 percent on alcoholic beverages, about 100 percent on coffee and about 70 percent on automobiles are a cause of concern.

Today, India stands at a point where it has a trade surplus with the United States of America and our country provides them a huge market for defence firms, technology and e-commerce. Although some would disagree, stating examples of countries like Brazil and Indonesia which have much lower agricultural tariffs than India, we must remember that India’s average non-agricultural tariffs are still lower than Brazil and that this is no scale for comparison. Our high agricultural tariffs are merely to protect the domestic agro sector from being affected. If we were to compare with other nations, the results would certainly differ but the tag of ‘Tariff King’ still hangs around our collar.

Addressing a Republican political rally in Wisconsin state, Donald Trump had earlier alleged that many countries had been ‘ripping’ America off for years and also said that countries like India have been imposing tremendously high tariffs on American products.

Another point to be highlighted here is that Indian immigrants contribute billions of dollars to the US economy and have been doing so for decades now. Indian Americans are also some of the most entrepreneurial groups in the US creating employment opportunities for many Americans. The estimated GDP growth of the country from contribution from Indian immigrant workers amounted to nearly $2 trillion back in 2015.

India in fact, does make valuable contributions to the economic growth and innovation in the United States. It also helps slow down the ageing of the nation and it is estimated that the growth of labour force in the US between 2020 and 2030 will largely or completely depend on US-born Indians.

US president Donald Trump had also previously made remarks on how immigrants compete directly against the ‘vulnerable’ Americans. It is nothing but hypocrisy watching the same man advocate for our Prime Minister, celebrating the unison of India and America. “We are proud to have you as Americans,” said Donald Trump while addressing American Indians during the ‘Howdy Modi’ event held at Houston, Texas. The same man now can be seen praising India for its contribution to the US economy, contribution to bringing down unemployment rate in their country and emphasizing on historical tax cuts.

The US is not only looking forward to trade and investment exchange with India now but has also stressed on both their need to collaborate in space research, defence deals, and commit to fight ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’

On analyzing the American Community Survey of 2017, statistics and poll surveys by India Today Data Intelligence Unit revealed that Donald Trump was not a preferred choice in most states of the country inhabited by Indians. Another poll survey showed that about 57 percent of Indian-Americans opted for Hillary Clinton over 29.3 who wanted Donald Trump to become the American President. According to the National Asian American Survey, only 16 percent of Indian-Americans voted for Donald Trump whereas 77 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton.

“The United States and India will make our future brighter than ever,” said the US president at the event in Texas. He now seems to be eager to strengthen ties with India to benefit from the Indian Diaspora which now is an enormous vote bank to the Republicans. While this event is speculated to largely improve Indo-US ties, it is also imperative that it most definitely benefits Trump politically.

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