Any form of revelry in north India requires two things — whiskey and chicken. Too often, these simple pleasures are swept aside in the broad sweep of diplomacy, and the technicality of negotiations on trade and tariffs make them all too distant from the concerns of the everyman. But thanks to the uncertainties wrought by Donald Trump’s pledge to put “America First”, and perhaps even due to the paens of praise that the leaders of India and the US heaped on each other at “Howdy, Modi”, the diplomatic corps is all set to ensure that bourbon and chicken imported from the US will become cheaper for Indians. An expectant nation holds its breath, and readies the ice cubes and mint chutney.
Slashing the import duties on whiskey, frozen chicken, walnuts, milk albumin and un-denatured ethanol are part of the basket of goods — food and beverages and ingredients for biofuels — will be discussed at a secretary-level inter-ministerial panel to be held on October 21. Reportedly, the government is considering the reduction of import tariffs on bourbon whiskey from 150 per cent to 30 per cent and on frozen chicken cuts from 100 per cent to 30 per cent. It will also consider a reduction of import duty on walnuts from 100 per cent to 10 per cent and on apples from 50 to 10 per cent will also be discussed.
The rise in import duties was in retaliation to a similar action by the US on Indian goods. And luckily, free trade itself can enable a less expensive way to celebrate it. Of course, given the size of the Indian market, and the appetites of so many of its people, other countries may cry foul. Perhaps the next step ought be to make other fruits, dairy and their fermented products a little less expensive as well. Beyond whiskey and chicken, Indians may like a taste of some French wine, Swiss cheese, Spanish sausages and Belgian beer.