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Protectionism will be disaster for trade, economies: Prabhu

IANS | New Delhi |

India, along with many other countries, is concerned about the prospects of a global trade war breaking out after recent US protectionist measures and its possible disastrous consequences for national economies, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Friday.

Addressing the first annual general meeting of International Business Congress (IBC) in India, Prabhu said it is to formulate a response to the threats being posed to the global trade order that India organised a mini-ministerial here in March of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members concerned about growing protectionist trends in the developed world and particularly in the US.

“There is concern in India, like in other right-thinking countries, that this (protectionist measures) will be disastrous not only for global trade, but for national economies as well,” he said.

“It is in the face of these challenges that India took the lead to call a meeting of WTO countries on promoting global trade, which has been much appreciated.

“The WTO DG (Director General) personally called me from Geneva to put on record the WTO’s appreciation of India’s contribution to promoting global trade at a time when influential members are questioning it,” he added.

US President Trump slapped import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium last month, while China retaliated earlier in April by increasing tariffs by up to 25 per cent on 128 US products from frozen pork and wine to certain fruits and nuts.

India has sought an exemption from the US tariffs along the lines the latter has allowed to the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

Prabhu on Thursday urged the US to take “corrective actions” with regard to the latter’s reported imminent plans to prohibit spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in America.

Tightening of norms relating to eligibility for an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers are also on the anvil, as announced by the Trump administration.

Spouses of H-1B workers in the US will no longer be able to seek employment or set up their own business, as per plans revealed to the US Senate by a senior administration official — a move that could affect thousands of Indians.

Following Trump’s election on a protectionist platform, the US has announced stricter norms for issuing the H-1B and L1 visas.

“The US is putting certain conditions on trade front which has created issues at both bilateral and multi-lateral levels. I think we need to put this behind as growth in global trade would benefit all,” Prabhu had said.

“Amidst the talk of trade deficits and other challenges, as long as there is no friendship deficit we will sort out those issues. American companies operating in India benefits both the nations and we must look at more opportunities that will be mutually beneficial to us.”