WASHINGTON  -   US President Donald Trump has called India a “high-tariff nation” and said he wanted to impose a reciprocal tax on imports from New Delhi to match the heavy duties that India applied on products imported from the US.

“India is a very high-tariff nation. They charge us a lot. When we send a motorcycle to India, it’s a 100 percent tariff, they charge 100 percent. When India sends a motorcycle to us, we brilliant charge them nothing,” Trump said at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. “So I want a reciprocal tax, or at least I want to charge a tax.”

Trump has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs on imported products, and since taking office his administration has taken on New Delhi by restricting H-1B visas, largely granted to Indian technology workers.

Washington is also reportedly weighing a decision of whether to remove India from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a trade programme for developing countries which allows Indian goods, of around billions of dollars, to enter the US duty-free.

When Trump spoke about India’s high tariffs, he said that no one in Congress knew about it because “nobody knows what they’re doing in Washington.”

In 2017, the trade between the US and India stood at about $126 billion and as of the same year, New Delhi is Washington’s 9th largest trading partner.

In the past, Donald Trump has slammed India for “high tariffs” on American products, and said India wants to start trade talks with the US “immediately”. India wanted the trade deal primarily “to keep him happy” he said, describing the country as a “tariff king” in October last year.

Last month, news agency Reuters reported that India could lose a vital US trade concession, under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States, amid a widening dispute over its trade and investment policies.

The trigger for the latest downturn in trade ties was India’s new rules on e-commerce that restrict the way Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart do business in a rapidly growing online market set to touch $200 billion by 2027, Reuters said.

Early this year, at a White House event to announce his support for reciprocal tax, Trump had said he was satisfied with the Indian decision to reduce the import tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles from 100 percent to 50 percent. “Even this is not enough, this is okay,” he had said.

“Look at motorcycles as an example. (In) India, it was 100 percent. I got them down to 50 percent, just by talking for about two minutes. It’s still 50 percent vs 2.4 percent (on imported motorcycles to the US). Again, other than that, it’s a very fair deal,” the president had told reporters at the White House on January 24.

On Saturday, Trump used the Indian example of how other countries were imposing high taxes on American products and now it was time for the US to impose a reciprocal tax. To prove his point, Trump said, he was using India as an example.

“But India is a very high-tariff nation. And they charge tremendously. So they charge a hundred. So I say, I’m not going to charge you a hundred, but I’m going to charge 25 percent, and I hear this turmoil in the Senate because we are charging 25 percent,” he said.

Trump told his supporters that there was resistance to his move from the Senate. “I say, fellows, listen, they are charging us a hundred percent. For the exact same product, I want to charge them 25 percent. I feel so foolish charging 25, because it should be a hundred. But I’m doing 25 only because of you. I want to get your support,” he said.

Thereafter, Trump mimicked the response from the lawmakers. “Sir, that’s not free trade. Where did these people come from? Where do they come from? I need your help, I need your help, the voters’ help. Where do they come from?” he said.

Trump said the US could not allow a country to charge it 100 percent while it got nothing for the exact same product. For one thing, they don’t respect us. They think we’re stupid. They don’t respect us. But let me tell you something, the world respects our country again,” he said.

“America is now booming like never before. Other countries are doing very poorly,” Trump said.