We need more trade, not a trade war

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw preferential treatment to Indian goods should serve as a strong warning to the New Delhi that prioritising narrow domestic politics over good economic policy can have dangerous consequences.

Trump’s decision to levy import duties on erstwhile exempted goods did not, as commonly understood, come out of the blue, nor was it the first strike in an emerging trade dispute. The US Trade Representative has appealed to New Delhi multiple times in the past to remove the trade barriers that it has imposed on US goods and investments. This move by the US is largely due to three distortions introduced by the government that hurts not only US business interests but also Indian consumers. These are the price caps on cardiac stents and knee caps, the new FDI in e-commerce industry rules that prohibit foreign e-commerce firms to run inventory based retail, and the ban on American dairy products.

It is not in India’s national interest to get into a trade war with the US. We have more to lose than them by doing so. India should drop the threat of escalating the trade war. Relative size of an economy and dependence on trade with the other partner are crucial in determining whether trade barriers can achieve the necessary outcomes. The US is a lot more important trading partner for India than India is to the US.

Geopolitical realism instructs us that India cannot afford to indulge in such a trade war and that the damage we can inflict upon the US is not big enough to force it to change its trade regime. If India escalates the matter, it could very well lead to a full-blown trade war that could potentially witness bigger retaliation from the US in the form of higher tariffs on pharmaceutical products or non-trade barriers on Indian software products, which can truly hurt the Indian economy. We could also suffer due to decreased investment by US firms in India and, at a time of decreasing domestic investment, this can be damaging.

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/we-need-more-trade-not-a-trade-war-with-us-722934.html