I’ll admit. I had never heard of GSP. So when I saw our media working itself into a sudden frenzy about America withdrawing our GSP privileges, I was a bit alarmed.
What did Trump do now? Closely on the heels came the usual attacks on Modi’s diplomacy from assorted members of the opposition and the liberal elite.
I am pretty sure none of them took the time to google what GSP is, because I did. It took me to the website of US CBP (United States Customs and Border Protection).
An American program, instituted in 1976, to promote “economic growth in the developing world.” Let me translate that diplomatic language for you. It is a handout from the US government for the poorest countries of the world.
Let us find out who are these “developing countries” that are in this GSP list. Here is the list from March 2018, from the office of the United States Trade Representative. Seems that India and Turkey will no longer be in this list from now on.
Iraq. Djibouti. Congo. Somalia. South Sudan. Yemen. Zimbabwe.
Now, I mean absolutely no disrespect to citizens of any country. But can I just say that this is not a list of countries in which I would like to see India’s name?
Even Bangladesh is not in the list.
Do you really want India to be in a list that seems to consist solely of the absolutely poorest African countries, a couple of basket case Latin American economies and some failed states from the Middle East?
No sign of China. No Japan, no Korea and no Europe.
Does it really suit India’s stature, a country that is a wannabe global power, nuclear armed and with a space program that stretches as far as Mars, to want to stay in this list?
It turns out that the withdrawal of GSP will raise import duties on Indian goods by $190 million.
India’s total exports are measured in the hundreds of billions of $$$! An amount of $190 million is around 0.05% to 0.1% of our export figure.
Sure, international trade, like any kind of diplomacy, is amoral and one should fight (however shamelessly) for every last penny. So, of course, India would not volunteer out of something like this.
But there comes a point when it becomes impossible to convince the world that our condition is so bad that we need a trade benefit that is a lifeline for an economy such as that of Ethiopia or Sierra Leone. The world finds that impossible to believe.
Shouldn’t we be celebrating?
Again, no disrespect intended to citizens of any country, but I do wish all the countries in that list well and hope that soon they will find a way to develop their economies and grow out of that sad looking GSP list.
Yes, not being in the GSP list any more comes at a tiny cost that is peanuts compared to the size of our $2.7 trillion economy. But surely we have to be willing to pay an entry fee for the world power club. One of these fees is giving up certain small handouts that are given to the poorest countries in the world. We should be happy that India will no longer line up for these small benefits. Time to celebrate.