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New York, Jan 25 (IANS) President Donald Trump has taken aim at the 150 per cent customs duty he says India charges on whiskey imported from the US and the 50 per cent on Harley-Davidson motorcycles as he pushes for a law to impose reciprocity in tariffs in his battle to cut trade deficits.

At a meeting on Thursday with Republican lawmakers and his officials on the Reciprocal Trade Act he is proposing, he listed the tariffs on several items when they are imported into the US and exported by it to other countries as examples of unfairness.

He said: “India, as an example, has a 150 percent – hard to believe – tariff on whiskey. They make whiskey, and they sell it to us. We charge them zero. We sell it to them, they charge us 150 per cent. So I would say, other than that, it’s a very fair deal. Okay?”

That was greeted by laughter from those at the meeting, according to a White House transcript of his speech.

He did not say if he was going to hike duty on Indian whiskey to match what India charges on US import.

He also brought up India’s duty on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, one of his pet peeves that he has aired several times.

“Motorcycles, India: I got them down from 100 per cent to 50 per cent; I got them down to 50 percent just by talking for about two minutes,” he said. “But it’s still 50 per cent versus (our) 2.4 per cent.”

He added sarcastically: “Again, other than that, it’s a very fair deal.”

India-US trade was $126 billion in 2017, with a $27 billion deficit for the US, according to the US government.

Trump’s Reciprocal Trade Act is opposed by many in his own party because they feel it would restrict trade, and by many Democrats who don’t want to give him more powers to set tariffs as the proposed legislation would.

But Republican Representative Sean Duffy introduced the legislation in the Democrat-controlled House on Thursday.

Trump’s remarks about India are meant for his voter base. Kentucky is the major US producer of whiskey and he carried it with over 62 percent of the votes in the 2016 elections. He also won in Wisconsin, Missouri and Pennsylvania, where Harley-Davidsons are made. That brand is popular among his base of white men.

Trump blamed his predecessors for the overall trade deficit of $800 billion and said: “The Reciprocal Trade Act will give us the tools to solve this problem once and for all.”

Under the act, the US will place the same tariff on imports that a foreign country puts on export from the US, he added.

Trump announced in March tariffs of 10 per cent on aluminum and 25 per cent on steel imports from India but has deferred them.

India announced in June that it would retaliate and increase duties on 29 categories of imports from the US but has held off from imposing them.

The highest increases, from 30 percent to 120 percent, were to be on walnuts that are grown in California, a staunchly Democratic state.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to visit India next month for bilateral dialogue and a meeting of the India-US CEO’s forum.

In October, Trump said that he had great relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that he was going to reduce tariffs on US imports.

He said that none of the previous presidents or trade representatives had spoken to India about the high tariffs and asserted that Modi told him that “nobody ever spoke to me” about them.

“They (India) have called us to make a deal, we didn’t even call them; they called us to make a deal, which is like shocking to people,” he added.

Whether Harley-Davidson actually pays the 50 percent duty is questionable because it makes the motorcycles in a Haryana factory and they are treated as domestic products. The tax on imported parts is in the range of 15 percent or less.

If India dropped the tariffs on the larger motorcycles that are charged 50 percent tariff, not Harley-Davidson, but others that don’t manufacture in India will benefit, contrary to Trump’s expectations.

Also, till February last year when the duty on imported bikes was dropped uniformly to 50 per cent, the highest tariff India charged was 75 per cent and it was on those with capacities of 800cc or more.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Markets open on positive note

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Sensex Nifty Equity

Mumbai, Feb 20: The 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) on Wednesday opened on a positive note during the morning session of the trade.

The BSE Sensex opened at 35,564.93 before touching a high of 35,581.14 and a low of 35,520.21.

It was trading at 35,528.69 up by 176.08 points or 0.50 per cent from its Tuesday’s close at 35,352.61.

On the other hand, the broader 50-scrip Nifty at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) opened at 10,655.45 after closing at 10,604.35.

The Nifty is trading at 10,656.25 in the morning.

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PF funds’ investment in IL&FS bonds have no government guarantee: Finance Ministry

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IL&FS Financial Service

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) The provident and pension fund trusts that invested in the IL&FS bonds now fear loss of money as the debt-ridden company’s bonds are unsecured debt, and the Finance Ministry says superannuated bonds do not carry any government guarantee and all such instruments have to face all market-related risks.

“Since these are investments in bonds, the government does not ensure any guarantee on them as such and if these are invested in stock markets, they carry the market risks as applicable. It is between the bond issuer and bond holders…,” the Finance Ministry said in response to IANS queries.

Thousands of crores of money of more than 15 lakh employees of both public and private sector companies have exposure to IL&FS bonds.

However, queries sent to the EPFO Commissioner and Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar remained unanswered.

Over 50 funds that manage retirement benefits of over 15 lakh employees have exposure to IL&FS. PF trusts of state electricity boards, public sector undertakings (PSUs) and banks are among them. The provident and pension fund trusts have filed intervening applications in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) stating that they stand to lose all the money since the bonds are under unsecured debt.

Usually, retirement funds have a low-risk appetite and invest in “AAA” rated bonds (which IL&FS bonds used to be once upon a time) and get assured returns with low interest rates.

The worries of pension and provident fund trusts come from the classification of IL&FS profiling its companies as to which can meet the dues obligations. Many important trust managing funds of PSUs like MMTC, IOC, Hudco, SBI and IDBI are among those filing petitions. From private sector, HUL and Asian Paints are among the petitioners.

IL&FS is currently under resolution process at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The process will decide under Section 53 of the IBC the order of priority for distribution of proceeds of the process.

The beleaguered company has informed the NCLT that of the 302 entities in the group, 169 are Indian companies, out of which only 22 are emerging as those which can meet all obligations (green), while 10 firms can pay to only secured creditors (Amber). There are 38 companies of IL&FS (red) which cannot meet any obligations of payment, and 120 entities are still being assessed.

These PF and provident funds trusts are worried that if payment is limited to secured creditors, then only financial creditors like banks will receive the dues while unsecured bond-holders will be get any payments.

IL&FS bonds attracted investments by PF trusts as it had the shareholding of SBI and LIC giving its bonds the comfort factor.

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Sachin Bansal invests Rs 650 crore in Ola

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Bengaluru, Feb 19 (IANS) Internet entrepreneur and Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal has invested Rs 650 crore, or about $92 million, in ride-hailing platform Ola in his personal capacity as investor, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

This investment is part of Ola’s larger Series J funding round. It is also the largest investment by an individual in Ola to date, it said.

“Ola is one of India’s most promising consumer businesses that is creating deep impact and lasting value for the ecosystem. On one hand, they have emerged as a global force in the mobility space and on the other, they continue to build deeper for various needs of a billion Indians through their platform, becoming a trusted household name today,” Bansal said.

He further said he has known Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal as entrepreneur and friend over the years and that he has great respect for what he and the team at Ola have built in 8 years.

“We are extremely thrilled to have Sachin onboard Ola as an investor. Sachin is an icon of entrepreneurship and his experience of building one of India’s most respected businesses ground up, is unparalleled,” Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said.

Ola integrates city transportation for customers and drivers onto a mobile technology platform ensuring convenient, transparent, safe and quick service fulfilment, the statement added.

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