According to Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank's Senior Director for Development Economics and Acting Chief Economist, India’s tariff levels aren’t as high as the United States (US) President makes it out to be. Also, he mentioned that the Indian economy is much more open and liberalised now than in the preceding decades, as reported by the PTI.
“That (India being a tariff king) certainly is not what we find in our data,” he said in an interview, adding that, "India has some tariffs, but by no means, it's not (tariff) king.” It should also be noted that even in the South Asian region, India does not have the highest tariffs. “Tariffs were very high in 1991, when they liberalised and they found that actually the economy boomed. That has helped to build political support for further reforms” Mr Shanta said while describing India’s growth trajectory.
The US President, Donald Trump, who has been very vocal against US’s trade deficit with other countries, had earlier called India a ‘tariff king.’ He cited examples of the high tariffs imposed on Harley Davidson motorcycles sold in India.
However, in all fairness, these motorcycles are so premium that a tiny group of Indians can afford them. For such a group, change in tariffs will be a secondary consideration and taxes on such products allow the government to collect funds to finance welfare programmes.