“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” Former US President John F. Kennedy once said these words as a part of an appeal to the country’s arch enemy at the time — the Soviet Union.These are wise words, and one can only hope that the Indians engaging in trade talks with the United States are mindful of what they mean and why they’re important.Going by the comments Indian officials have made so far, the government intends to play hardball with the US.President Donald Trump now occupies the oval office, nearly 60 years after Kennedy spoke those words. And Trump is peeved at India for charging import duty on high-end motorcycles, particularly Harley-Davidson. In February, India had reduced customs duty on completely built motorcycles of all engine capacities to 50 percent. This was a significant reduction in duty, since bikes with engine capacities of 800 cc or lower attracted 60 percent duty earlier, while those with capacities higher than 800 cc attracted 75 percent.But Trump, who has taken it upon himself to re-negotiate all of US’ bilateral and multilateral agreements, has made it clear bringing the duty down to 50 percent barely amounts to anything meaningful. What he wants is for the duty to be cut to zero, which is what Indian companies pay in the US.If one were to, just for an instant, set aside the protectionist glasses through which we see the world, they would realise that there is nothing wrong with what Trump wants. His duty is to protect US’ interests, just like it is our government’s duty to protect ours.
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