The move, which has been delayed by about a year and could happen next week, would follow closely on the heels of Washington’s decision to revoke key trading privileges for New Dehli.
United States President Donald Trump scrapped trade privileges for India under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) starting June 5th.
India had been the biggest beneficiary of the scheme, which allowed it to export some $5.6bn worth of goods to the US duty-free.
In response to losing those privileges, India is now considering slapping higher tariffs on US goods, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, although the US has warned that any retaliatory levies by India would not be “appropriate” under World Trade Organization rules.
“What India is doing is legal and the tariffs on US goods will only lead to an impact of around $220m,” one of the sources said, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry did not respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.
India initially issued an order in June last year to raise import taxes as high as 120 percent on a slew of US items, following Washington’s refusal to exempt New Delhi from higher steel and aluminium tariffs.
But New Delhi has repeatedly delayed raising tariffs as the two nations engaged in trade talks. Trade between them stood at about $142.1bn in 2018.
India is by far the largest buyer of US almonds, paying $543 million for more than half of US almond exports in 2018, according to US Department of Agriculture data. It is also the second largest buyer of US apples, importing $156 mn worth in 2018.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is expected to visit India this month, said this week that the US was open to dialogue with India by allowing US firms more access to Indian markets.
Dates for Pompeo’s visit have not been officially announced, but it could reportedly happen ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s first meeting with Trump in more than two years, on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan later this month.
Trump has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs, even though the two countries have developed close political and security ties.
New Delhi’s new rules in areas such as e-commerce and data localisation have angered the US and hit companies such as Amazon.com, Walmart, Mastercard and Visa, among others.
Previously, India has called the withdrawal of GSP benefits “unfortunate”, and vowed to “always uphold its national interest in these matters”.