India lifts tariffs on apples, peas, lentils
Apple blossoms unfurl in an orchard near Mattawa in April. Tariffs imposed by the government of India in 2018 were lifted Wednesday, said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.
Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald
Staff Writer | September 6, 2023 5:31 PM
WASHINGTON D.C. — Tariffs on American apples, peas and lentils imposed by the Indian government in 2018 were lifted Wednesday, following an agreement between the U.S. and India announced in June.
The 20% tariff was imposed on U.S. agricultural products in retaliation for tariffs on steel imposed by the then-Trump Administration. The U.S. tariffs on Indian steel were removed as well.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) said removing the tariffs required continuing effort from the state’s Congressional delegation, as well as changing political and market conditions.
“In general we were not a fan of the tariffs, and we tried to emphasize that tariffs on products were not going to resolve disputes — in fact, they were just going to create countervailing tariffs, which is what happened with India,” she said.
Prior to 2018, India was a major market for Washington apples. According to information from the Northwest Horticultural Council, apple exports to India accounted for about $120 million in sales in 2017. That dropped to about $760,000 in 2022. Cantwell said the U.S. share of the Indian apple market shrank from about 53% to about 1%.
The U.S. exported about $150 million worth of dry peas and lentils to India in 2016-17, a market that shrank dramatically by 2022-23.
Some apple varieties, red delicious among them, sold well in India, Cantwell said, and the tariffs shut off a valuable market.
“It affected growers who could have had a big market opportunity and could have kept growing the opportunity,” she said.
In response, Cantwell said she kept talking to officials in the Trump administration, and later the new U.S. ambassador and trade representatives that were appointed by President Joe Biden. Cantwell also made a trip to India and talked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
“One of my colleagues had been successful in getting them to open the pecan market,” she said.
In the meantime, Congress was working on other programs, including a push to encourage research and manufacturing of the next generation of computer technology. Cantwell was a sponsor of some of the important legislation and said the initiative changed the situation in various ways.
“India really wanted to be a partner in all of that,” she said.
But it was, she said, important to resolve some of the existing conflicts before making new agreements, and she told Indian officials that.
“That’s when we really put a full-court press on,” she said.
She credited U.S. officials in India with working to reopen the Indian market.
“It means, though, that we have to reestablish those accounts. We’re hoping that we can get shipments over there, hopefully within the next 30 to 60 days,” Cantwell said.
Cheryl Schweizer may be reached via email at email@example.com.